Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden pledged to hold the line on taxes and growth when he was elected. The recession has kept him from keeping his first promise. He's sticking firm to the second.
In recent weeks, his administration has asked the county council to ban new construction in the Honeygo section of Perry Hall for three years. It also steadfastly rejected a proposal that called for building a "European-style" hillside village in Cockeysville that would have been the county's second-largest housing development.
Some in the business community aren't thrilled that Mr. Hayden, without warning, called for the county to halt new construction in a 3,000-acre section of Perry Hall where about 12,000 new homes are planned. The moratorium, which needs council approval, would exempt 300 new homes and condominiums in a development already approved, but would block an additional 900 homes planned for that project as well as other construction in the area. A three-year moratorium would give the county time to update its master plan for White Marsh-Perry Hall, Mr. Hayden says.
The executive reasons that the schools are already too crowded in Perry Hall and the county can't afford to build many more schools now. Even though 1,000 classroom seats have been added in the area over the past two years, the day the new Seven Oaks school opens in September, it will be overcrowded, school planners say.
Similarly, with the Cockeysville project, known as Colvista -- meaning "View of the Valley" -- officials feared the impact of 3,000 residences on already crowded schools and winding country roads, not to mention sewage treatment capacity. The developer had made an elaborate presentation to county leaders with all the bells and whistles: pastel renderings of fashionable condos circled by wooded bike trails; graphs estimating county revenue from the project; its proximity to the light-rail line and the job center of Hunt Valley. A decade ago, it was the type of presentation that officials might have found irresistible. But after studying the proposal, several county agencies voiced unanimous concern about the project and its site.
That's not to say Baltimore County officials are, or should be, anti-growth. But they do have to review a project and ask, even if it brings in some taxes, can we afford it? Because of the recession and severe state budget cuts, Mr. Hayden is still treading in a pool of red ink on the "pocketbook" issues. But on what communities call "quality of life," he appears resolute and on solid ground.