A Carroll County Circuit Court judge has ordered the county to schedule the review of a subdivision plan, halted by the county's growth freeze, at next month's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
This is the first time Judge Michael M. Galloway has specified the time and place for the county to resume processing subdivision plans that were subject to the county's one-year freeze on residential development.
The county Planning and Zoning Commission determines final approval of subdivision plans. In effect, Galloway has granted the developer, Neuman Homes Development, the "ultimate relief" against the county's efforts to control growth in the county, said county attorney Kimberly Millender.
The county had asked Galloway for clarification of his Feb. 10 ruling that granted a stay or a delay of a decision by the county Board of Zoning Appeals. The board had upheld the county's action to stop processing plans for the Marabrooke Farms project in Sykesville.
Yesterday, Millender told the county commissioners that they could not appeal Galloway's most recent decision. That led Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge to question whether the court "fully understands what we're trying to do."
The county's growth freeze halted subdivision projects that were subject to the county's adequate public facilities law. The law is designed to keep residential growth from overwhelming schools, roads, utilities and emergency services. The commissioners imposed the freeze in June to give the county's planning department time to revamp growth laws. The freeze interrupted about 90 projects, totaling 1,700 lots.
Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said he's not surprised by the legal challenges to the county's growth freeze, which expires in June.
"We knew we would be assaulted in every direction," Minnich said. "Certainly, there is no surprise that the battle lines were drawn. We're not finished yet, either."
Added Gouge: "It's unfortunate that the courts have ignored our concerns. It's disappointing."
Besides Neuman Homes, the Carroll County Circuit Court has ruled in favor of four other developers. In each of the four cases, the developer asked Galloway for preliminary injunctions. And in each case, the judge granted the requests, ordering the county to resume processing the development plans.
Appeals before the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis are pending in two cases, while the county is preparing to file similar appeals for the remaining two, Millender said.
"Our department continues to aggressively fight each case," Millender said.