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Task force proposes stricter rules for residential projects


Residential development in Carroll County would have to meet more stringent adequate-facilities standards and would be required to pass two tests before developers could proceed with their plans under recommendations approved yesterday by a task force.

The group was formed after the county commissioners imposed a yearlong freeze on residential development covered by the county's adequate-facilities law. The law is designed to prevent residential growth from overwhelming schools, roads, the water supply, and police, fire and medical services.

Revisions proposed

The task force completed its work yesterday by recommending revisions to the adequate-facilities law. The recommendations are expected to be presented to the county commissioners in the next few weeks, said Frank Johnson, special assistant to Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who led the task force.

Divided into two sections, the proposed changes would establish stricter adequate-facilities standards and create a more involved review process.

In considering a proposed development, schools would be deemed adequate if projected enrollment was 100 percent of capacity or less.

The proposal calls for 1.3 police officers per 1,000 residents. The current standard is 1 per 1,000.

The proposal also spells out standards to determine "approaching inadequacy" and "inadequacy."

It would allow the county to place conditions on projects deemed to be "approaching inadequacy," said Steven C. Horn, director of the county's Department of Planning. Development plans that didn't meet adequacy standards could be held back and retested annually, Horn said.

The other set of proposed revision involves the way the county processes development plans and determines whether the projects would overwhelm infrastructure.

The current adequate-facilities law provides for one test in determining adequacy at the planning stage. Once the development plan passes that test, the developer receives a certificate saying its project would not strain schools, roads or water capacities and could proceed.

"It's a lot easier to get through the development process today," Horn said. "Once you get your concurrency management certificate, there is no further test for adequacy."

Two tests for projects

Under the proposed changes, the county would no longer issue such certificates. Instead, development plans would have to pass two tests for adequacy, one during preliminary planning and the second during final planning.

The proposal would give the county's Planning and Zoning Commission more authority and more involvement in making decisions about projects.

Daniel Hoff, a member of the growth task force who represented small developers, voted against the proposed changes on the grounds that a proposed development could be stuck in limbo if it passed the first adequacy test but failed the second one.

"Theoretically, someone could be swimming around in the process," Hoff said after casting the lone dissenting vote among the task force's 20 members.

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