Whatever possessed Republican County Councilman Charles Feaga to come out against a proposal for mixed-use developments in Howard County, it certainly had nothing to do with what's best for the county.
By bucking County Executive Charles I. Ecker, the Republican Party standard-bearer in Howard, Mr. Feaga has kowtowed to the no-growth advocates who have been so vocally opposed to this plan from the start.
They were out in force at a public hearing recently, spouting the same litany of objections to nearly every growth plan ever proposed.
Once again, their stated fears were traffic, crime and overcrowded schools.
Adequate public facilities legislation designed to tie growth to infrastructure improvements has not squelched their anxiety. Nor have assurances that county officials are willing to compromise over the current plan.
This time, no-growth advocates are targeting four proposed mixed-use centers, where residential and commercial development would be clustered at densities higher than currently allowed in those areas. A major goal of the centers would be to attract new business to the county. Among the lures would be a range of housing within reasonable proximity to offices.
That goal alone would be enough to win our endorsement. In opposing the mixed-use concept, Mr. Feaga is not only shortsighted about the future, he conveniently ignores recent history.
For too long, suburban growth has been allowed to occur haphazardly, without regard to the link between long commuter rides, pollution and the destruction of wetlands.
If that were not enough, the mixed-use concept has another potential benefit. Through economic development, the county could shift more of the tax burden from residential to business taxpayers.
Currently, businesses in Howard account for 22 percent of the county's assessable tax base. Mr. Ecker has consistently said he would like that percentage to be closer to 30 percent.
rTC Unfortunately, Mr. Ecker has done a poor job selling his plan to the community.
The best evidence of this failure is that Mr. Ecker hasn't been able to sell it to Mr. Feaga, of his own party.