3rd District council race focuses on development CAMPAIGN 1994

August 26, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

In Pasadena, crowded schools and congested roads demonstrate the issue for 3rd District candidates for the County Council: Is development threatening the small-town feel of the communities along the Mountain Road corridor?

"If you drive down Mountain Road at 6:30 in the evening, you know there's a problem there," said Tom Redmond, 47, a Democratic candidate for the 3rd District council seat and owner of Redmond's Towing & Auto Parts. "It backs up two miles on Route 100."

Halting or limiting waivers to the adequate facilities law has become the battle cry of the campaign. A developer can apply to the county for a waiver so that a building project can proceed, even without adequate schools, roads or sewers; if the application is granted, the developer pays a fee that will be used to finance such facilities later.

"I think you have to possibly look at stopping the waivers," Mr. Redmond said.

School board President Thomas Twombly, a Pasadena resident, has been an outspoken critic of the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement for granting the waivers, which he said has caused a building boom that has been a major factor in school overcrowding. The board has embarked on a year-long study of whether and where to redistrict to solve the problem.

The situation in Pasadena has reached a critical stage, said Democratic council candidate A. Shirley Murphy, 53, co-owner of Allstate Alarm Systems. She said she decided to run after she was approached by a group of parents concerned about school overcrowding.

"No other area in the county has had the overcrowding situation we have here," especially at the elementary school level, where schools like High Point Elementary have to use portable classrooms, she said.

"What they're doing is giving waivers, and Pasadena is taking the brunt of it," she said. "Something's wrong here. We've got laws, and they're not being enforced."

Enforcing the adequate facilities ordinance rather than redistricting is the answer, she said. "I sure would not want my child to be bused out of the neighborhood."

Mr. Redmond said he worries that development will ruin the community he has lived in all his life.

"We're like a little town," he said. But if growth is not controlled, "we could be turned into a nightmare. If we have bad schools and bad roads, it could hurt us to where people would not want to live here."

Tax preparer Elmer Dunn Jr., 37, also a Democratic candidate and another life-long area resident whose father ran for county executive twice, said newcomers who buy homes in Pasadena need to pay their fair share for infrastructure.

"I think the people who are moving into this area need to pay for the improvements they are causing," said Mr. Dunn, who is a member of the Democratic Central Committee.

And those improvement don't stop immediately in front of their ++ houses, he said. "If they have to go to Baltimore to work, you have to get them to Baltimore, not 50 feet from their house."

In the Democratic primary, Mr. Redmond has to be considered a front-runner, based on the money he has raised -- $76,696 compared with $18,473, the second-largest amount, by Ms. Murphy -- and length of time he has been running.

"We've got tremendous support from the community, and it's because I committed early. We've been campaigning hard for two years," Mr. Redmond said. He officially announced in October 1992.

Mr. Redmond began distributing bumper stickers two years ago, and his red and green signs proclaiming him "the home-grown candidate" are likely the most visible in the district.

"We're running like we're losing, and we're running a very aggressive campaign," he said.

Ms. Murphy said she believes Mr. Redmond's high-profile campaign will backfire. "As soon as his signs went up, I started getting phone calls" encouraging her to run, she said. "People came to me and said, 'Mr. Redmond is part of the problem, not part of the solution.' "

A subtext to the Democratic primary is a series of zoning battles between Mr. Redmond and Ms. Murphy's campaign manager and business partner, Mark Baumgardner. In 1992, Mr. Redmond opposed an attempt by Michael Lohrer, who operates Mike's Auto Parts in Hanover, to obtain a special exception to the zoning laws for an auto salvage yard in Pasadena. The application was denied by the Board of Appeals.

Later that year, Mr. Baumgardner, who Mr. Redmond says is a close friend of Mr. Lohrer, appealed Mr. Redmond's special exception to operate his auto recycling business. The Board of Appeals ruled that Mr. Baumgardner lived too far from Mr. Redmond's business to have legal standing to appeal.

Now, Mr. Redmond says he believes Mr. Baumgardner convinced Ms. Murphy to run as a way to get back at him. Ms. Murphy brushed the notion aside.

"I'm my own candidate," she said.

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