Sophocleus releases his 'Green Plan'

September 02, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Democratic county executive candidate Theodore J. Sophocleus yesterday released an environmental program that would plant a million trees in four years.

Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, one of the state's best-known environmental legislators, immediately endorsed the program. He had expressed concern that such issues are being overshadowed in the election.

"I think it's the most comprehensive game plan and blueprint that I've seen put forth for any of our counties," Mr. Winegrad said. "And it could be a blueprint for our state of Maryland."

Mr. Sophocleus detailed his views in a nine-page position paper called Green Plan 2000. He said it embraces the concerns of environmentalists and developers.

"This is about working hand in hand with the environment and development, because we know development's coming," he said. "We just want it to be the right kind of development."

Highlights of Mr. Sophocleus' plan include:

* Ending the county policy of granting waivers to the adequate facilities ordinance, which keeps developers from building where there are inadequate roads and schools.

* Extending critical areas protections throughout the county, including requiring a buffer of 100 feet along all waterways, not just those in the designated critical area.

* Establishing a task force of community leaders, environmentalists, county planners and representatives from the building industry to reach a consensus on land use policy.

* Planting one million trees in Anne Arundel County during the next four years as part of the Global Re-leaf program.

The county's reforestation program has collected nearly $2 million since a tree bill was passed in 1990 and the critical areas bill was adopted in 1988. But the county has come under fire for spending only about one-third of the money to plant trees on 45 acres.

* Setting a goal of recycling 35 percent of residents' trash by 1999 and 75 percent of the refuse in county buildings. County residents recycled 22 percent of their trash in 1993 and the county's solid waste master plan calls for a 35 percent recycling rate by July 1996.

* Building a yard waste composting facility, which would reduce the waste stream by 15 percent.

* Establishing a environmental education coordinator for the schools.

Mr. Sophocleus said his program and its new positions would cost about $200,000. Part of the money to pay for the plan would come out of the $1.5 million to $3 million he estimates the county will save annually by instituting energy and water conservation programs.

An example, he said, is the Board of Education's contract with Honeywell Inc., in which lighting and heating systems are modified to make them more efficient. Because Honeywell pays for the improvements and makes its money out of the savings generated over the next five years, the program costs the county schools nothing. School officials estimate that the improvements will result in well over $1 million in energy savings each year.

Neither the costs of the program nor the savings from conservation will be immediate. "It's not all going to happen in one day," Mr. Sophocleus said.

H. Erle Schafer, another Democratic candidate for county executive, gave a guarded assessment of the plan.

"The plan sounds good, but it sounds like more government, more committees," he said. "I think we have a lot of things in place now. I think we need more enforcement."

Mr. Schafer also said Mr. Sophocleus "should be applauded for being aggressive on environmental matters."

Robert Agee, another Democratic opponent, said much of Mr. Sophocleus' plan sounded familiar.

"There's nothing new here. These are things that have been talked about for years," he said, pointing out that Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett has long advocated appointing an environmental ombudsman and that many of the energy conservation measures have already been implemented in state office buildings.

"Some of these things were in my paper that went out," he said, noting his solid waste program that emphasizes recycling and composting of yard waste and other materials.

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