Assembly ignores Schaefer on cleanup

June 05, 1991|By Sandy Banisky and John W. Frece | Sandy Banisky and John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- On a promenade overlooking the South River, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday announced plans to speed the Chesapeake Bay cleanup -- while a few miles away, legislators were voting to put a gubernatorial land-use proposal, meant to protect bay waters, on a very slow track.

The legislative temporizing met with immediate disapproval from the governor. "We think it would be a major mistake to delay any action on managing growth for another two years," said Ray Feldmann, a Schaefer spokesman. "This . . . is an issue that demands attention now, not two years from now. We will lose much in the way of momentum and environmental protection."

Mr. Feldmann said the governor's unhappiness would be greater if the legislators had not agreed to act quickly -- perhaps in 1992 -- to protect "sensitive areas" such as wetlands, marshes and wildlife habitat.

Mr. Schaefer sought to give immediacy to the continuing cleanup effort at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, where he unveiled his 1991 bay agenda. He wants to reduce bay pollution by cutting pollution in the air, pressing small sewage treatment plants to comply with pollution laws, increasing the number of wildlife habitats, and boosting public awareness of the link between development and the health of the bay.

The governor said some of the efforts will be costly but the investment must be made. "If you don't," he said, "the bay will be totally destroyed."

David Carroll, the governor's Chesapeake Bay coordinator, said Mr. Schaefer is concerned that bay programs are "not as visible" as they were a few years ago and wants to give the issue new momentum.

But while the governor was standing in a park trying to infuse the bay effort with new energy, legislative leaders at the State House were saying the state should take its time before adopting a plan to control growth and development.

In the last session, the legislature refused to approve an administration plan that would have given the state greater control over local land-use decisions. That bill had been proposed by a special commission appointed by the Schaefer administration to recommend protections for the water quality of the bay.

The proposal was an attempt to direct growth by the year 2020 to or near existing urban centers and away from the state's remaining farmland, forests or other pristine areas. But the plan came under sharp attack from local officials who felt the state was usurping its power. The legislature sent the idea to summer study, and yesterday General Assembly leaders slowed the proposal's progress even further.

The Legislative Policy Committee, headed by the presiding officers of the House and Senate and made up of committee chairmen and majority and minority leaders from both houses, agreed without dissent for a yet-to-be-named joint committee of legislators to conduct a study that probably will not be concluded until the 1993 General Assembly convenes.

"We obviously would have preferred something in '92," said Jane Nishida, a legislative assistant to the governor.

But legislators said the 2020 proposal demands a careful review.

Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, said the study should "challenge the major premise" of the governor's 2020 commission, which he said held that "a group of bureaucrats at the state level can look at and second-guess land-use decisions made by elected local officials."

Eastern Shore Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, said the state's role in land-use control should be no more than advisory in nature. But Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, argued for greater state control, saying local officials are often swayed by financial considerations when making zoning or land use decisions.

Delegate Ronald A. Guns, D-Cecil, chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee and co-chairman of the governor's special land-use study group, said the study could prompt some legislation "to protect sensitive areas" in time for next year's legislative session. But he said it will take two legislative interims to complete the bulk of the work.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.