Granite considers strengthening its influence by becoming a municipality BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 16, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Frustrated and lacking the votes or money to affect policy in Baltimore County, some of the 1,500 residents in Granite are floating a novel idea: Becoming the county's only independent municipality.

Incorporating might give the tiny community the legal clout to be heard, said Kathleen Skullney, a community activist.

Many in Granite, located near the Patapsco River on the county's western edge, feel threatened by creeping suburbanization.

Five years ago their own county councilman proposed building a 10,000-home town on their rural fields. It was to be called Patapsco. The residents rallied against the idea. The councilman, Ronald B. Hickernell, lost his re-election bid in 1990, partly because of that unpopular proposal.

For nearly eight years, residents fought to close James Jett's infamous stump dump. They endured smoke from the dump's flames, and lost. Mr. Jett has resumed collecting wood.

Now they fear the State Highway Administration could move forward with a plan to extend U.S. 29 north from Howard County to Owings Mills. The path would cut right through their community. And they believe construction of Waverly Woods, a 1,000-unit development planned for 682 acres along Frederick Road in nearby Howard County, will increase the pressure for new roads.

On Monday night, Granite's residents met to discuss incorporation and their frustrations.

"I get so frustrated when I call the state or the county and I really need to talk to someone, and a secretary says, 'He'll call you back,' " Roz Roddy, president of the Greater Patapsco Community Association, said during the meeting at the Granite Presbyterian Church in the 10600 block of Old Court Road. If Granite were incorporated, she noted, the mayor would be a neighbor.

Several older residents were skeptical and warned that a new layer of government would mean more taxes and expenses.

Linda Meara of the Maryland Municipal League said that, on average, incorporation costs about $11,000. The Patapsco association only has $1,221.35 in its checking account and $1,769 in its savings account, according to the treasurer's report. However by incorporating, Granite would get a share of state income taxes that now go to the county.

But Anna Rose Anderson, a retired teacher who was born in the area, wanted details.

"Where is Granite?" she asked. "Who's in it?"

Another older resident said, "We don't even have one store, or even a post office."

The area's population is a small part of the roughly 100,000 people who live in the county's 1st Councilmanic District. Most of the county's attention to the district goes to the densely populated areas along Liberty Road or farther south in Catonsville and Arbutus.

"They don't find us before these big explosive issues occur," Ms. Skullney told the 45 people who attended the meeting.

Ms. Skullney conceded that if the state ever decided to extend U.S. 29 to Owings Mills, no local municipality could stop it. But as a municipality, Granite could control land use along the road and prevent roadside businesses from spoiling the rest of the countryside. By including all the area's farmland, Granite could prevent construction of a suburban town.

Ms. Meara, a former town commissioner in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore, said the first step toward incorporation is defining Granite geographically and demographically. Then at least 300 residents -- 25 percent of the qualified voters -- must sign a petition. The County Council must then decide whether to allow the process to proceed. If the council refuses, the idea dies, though it could be reconsidered. A public referendum among Granite residents would be held if the council approved the idea.

Since 1982, three small Montgomery County communities have become incorporated. Ms. Meara said Maryland has 154 incorporated areas, lowest in the nation.

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