Carroll Co. officials OK curbs on housing

Citing crowded schools in seven districts in northeastern and southern Carroll County, the county commissioners banned yesterday new residential development in both areas until the problems are alleviated.

Two commissioners voted to stop reserving new building permits for developers in Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy and the Freedom area -- which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville -- based on a recommendation from county planners.


The measure would prohibit new developments in areas where schools are crowded and water supplies insufficient, county planners told Commissioners Dean L. Minnich and Perry L. Jones Jr. before they voted. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge was out of town for a conference.

The commissioners' action comes a week before the county's yearlong freeze on residential growth expires. The freeze halted the processing of all development proposals, totaling 1,700 lots, while the county re-evaluated its growth laws.


"This is one step," said county Planning Director Steven C. Horn. "This is to say, 'We don't have the capacity at schools ... to open the door to new houses.'"

Under stricter growth rules adopted in April, the commissioners can curb development by placing limits on the number of homes built if schools, roads, utilities or emergency services are not sufficient.

The county's new adequate public facilities law also calls for developers to meet tighter standards to prove that their projects won't strain schools, roads, police services and water supplies.

County planners found that enrollment projections already exceed 120 percent of capacity at Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy and Eldersburg elementary schools; Mount Airy and Sykesville middle schools; and North Carroll High School in Hampstead.

To be approved, a proposed development must not push estimated enrollment at local schools beyond 109 percent of capacity. A 120 percent capacity threshold means a school cannot support new development.

In the Freedom area, county planners found that the water supply was not sufficient to support additional growth.

The measure would ban new home construction in the county's northeast and southern areas until crowding is relieved in the affected school districts and the water supply in the Freedom area becomes adequate, Horn said.

At that time, county planners would request that the commissioners lift the building restriction, Horn said.


Parr's Ridge Elementary School in Mount Airy is scheduled to open in September next year, and money will be set aside in the county's capital budget, starting in the 2007 fiscal year, for a new middle school in South Carroll.

"If you're serious about your agenda, about managed growth, that implies ... you'll be serious about adequate facilities," Minnich said. "The reason we need to slow growth is to incrementally provide affordable facilities. Growth is inevitable."

Projects totaling about 300 lots are in the pipeline in the northeast and south county, said Clayton Black, a manager with the county Bureau of Development Review.

When the freeze expires next week, the county will resume processing those plans, which will not be affected by the new restrictions.

Tom Ballentine, director of governmental affairs for the Home Builders Association of Maryland, said the development community had asked the commissioners for a measure similar to the one approved yesterday as an alternative to a countywide growth freeze.

The northeastern and southern portions of the county were experiencing problems with schools and water supplies that would have justified a development moratorium a year ago, Ballentine said.


"Managing growth and providing adequate facilities go beyond pointing the finger at new home construction," he said. "It validates what we said a year ago. [There was] no justification for a countywide moratorium."