Rehrmann: Still More Left to Do CAMPAIGN 1994

October 23, 1994|By EILEEN M. REHRMANN

The candidates for Harford County executive on the Nov. 8 ballot, Democrat Eileen M. Rehrmann and Republican Ronald M. Szczybor, were asked to respond to the following questions: How should growth be managed by county government, with respect to public facilities, zoning and land use decisions, and incentives to developers/businesses? What type of development is needed and how should it be achieved? Does development growth cost more than it brings to the county, and how to reconcile any such disparity? Their responses appear below: The effective management of growth and living within our financial means are two of the most important issues facing our county. My strategic goals, business and financial plans are in place to keep Harford County financially strong and well-managed. More effective growth management plans are under way to protect our quality of life. We've accomplished much in the past four years. There is still more to do.

Harford's initial land-use plan was set during the '70s. It established the existing development "envelope." This plan determined that growth would occur primarily in the "envelope," extending along U.S. 40/Interstate 95 from Havre de Grace to Joppatown, northwest along Route 24 to Bel Air. The corridor is served by the county's water and sewer system and major road collectors. Zoning densities were set in the '80s after adoption of the land use plan. Courts have limited the county's authority once the zoning classification is set.

Our challenge is to address the impact of those decisions. My goal is to carefully balance the priorities of environmental preservation, effective growth management and economic development so that our quality of life is maintained. Recognizing this, I implemented landmark legislation establishing adequate public facilities (APF) requirements within the development process. With this authority, the county denies new preliminary plan approvals if certain facilities are strained and over capacity. One result of this initiative: Residential building permits have dropped by 40 percent. Effective growth management doesn't stop here, however. Other tools are also being developed regarding highway capacities, open space and recreational needs.

Another major goal is the preservation of our farmland. Our rural plan includes a farmland preservation component, now under way, which has resulted in the permanent preservation of 2,100 acres in just two years. With farming and other agriculturally related business so important to Harford's quality of life, we are working to implement rural conservation standards and identify economic alternatives and practices to help our farming community stay in business.

I have directed our planning and zoning department to institute community-based planning. This effort will result in establishing councils of citizens and businesses in the community who will have critical input into planning efforts. Three councils are under way, with several more being organized. These councils will provide direction into decisions made by the administration and will strengthen our communities and neighborhoods.

Historically, Harford's revenue tax base has been largely residential. It costs the county more than $2,500 annually per pupil to educate our students. It is vital that we balance our tax base. We have been aggressive in this effort and will continue our efforts to keep existing businesses, help them expand and attract new businesses. We need diversified job opportunities and higher value industries. As competition for business increases, our "fast track" process will continue to be a competitive asset, as will such incentives as "incremental tax" and state financing programs.

The Higher Education and Applied Technology Center (HEAT) will be a catalyst for higher value, higher-yield jobs, and provide education and training opportunities for citizens and business. Aberdeen Proving Ground continues to be a major employment center for thousands of Harford countians. I have worked with local, state and federal officials to ensure Aberdeen Proving Ground's future as a research and development center.

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