Last Thursday the Howard County Planning Board unanimously approved the Carroll family plans to develop 325 single family homes on 200 acres of the 892 acre historic Doughoregan Manor estate. A key element of those plans is the extension of the county public water and sewer area to service the new homes According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, the Planning Board “found that moving the utilities is consistent with the county's General Plan. And recommending the zoning change seemed almost automatic if the utilities are extended, board members said.”
Some of the Carroll’s neighbors are not at all happy about this decision.
"They completely ignored all our advice about a million-gallon [wastewater] treatment plant. This is a major imposition on our environment," said Charles Staples, who lives near the estate's eastern boundary.
Opponents also have complained that the Carroll development project would increase traffic in the area and would require millions of dollars in public services while the public remains barred from the county's only National Historic Landmark.”
This has the potential to be a hot button issue in the District 1 council race. Current council chair Courtney Watson is facing an expected challenge from Bob Flanagan and, knowing Howard County, development projects have a way of stirring the electorate. The final decision on both the extension of public water and sewer and the requisite zoning change will be made by the county council, presumably before the election.
This could prove to be a tricky issue. If they support the development they risk having the anti development forces mobilize against them. If they oppose the development they could face the outcry of the environmentalists. While this may not be Smart Growth, as Planning Board member Paul Yelder pointed out, it is still preferable to what the Carroll family could do with the property under existing zoning.
“The Carrolls have the right under current zoning to build about 400 homes on large lots using wells and septic systems throughout their property. Instead, they want the county to allow public utilities so they can push the new homes together on a rezoned section of about 200 acres in the northeast corner of the estate.”
Considering how long the Planning Board dithered on the Columbia Town Center redevelopment plans, I am amazed at the speed in which they reached this decision.