Sauerbrey likes Bay Foundation view

ON THE BAY

October 29, 1994|By TOM HORTON

In her campaign for governor, Ellen Sauerbrey has been embracing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as she never did during all her years as a legislator.

In debates and to people who call her campaign, the Republican candidate says she can accept 25 of 26 prescriptions for the environment, published by the foundation as issues for the governor's race.

She contrasts the "mainstream" foundation with the League of Conservation Voters, a coalition of most of the rest of Maryland's environmental groups.

The league endorsed Democrat Parris Glendening and held a news conference to blast Mrs. Sauerbrey's environmental voting record -- calling it among the legislature's worst.

Actually, the biggest difference this fall between where the Bay Foundation and the league stand on the Chesapeake is that the foundation is, by policy, nonpartisan about it.

In an hourlong interview this week with The Sun, Mrs. Sauerbrey did appear to have given the environment more thought than earlier in her campaign, and she made pledges of support on some important issues.

She would defend Maryland's acclaimed Program Open Space from cuts, and from attacks on the real estate tax that raises the millions it spends annually to preserve farms and natural lands. And she supports bay cleanup plans to permanently cap some pollutants, even as population rises -- something Mr. Glendening was uncertain about doing.

But she diverges from environmental organizations, the Bay Foundation included, on a range of concerns involving private property rights, "where I have my strongest differences with [environmentalists]."

The questions and answers that follow focus on the foundation's 26 issues, as did last week's interview with Mr. Glendening.

Q: In 1984 you opposed the Maryland Critical Area Act, passed to restrain development of the bay's remaining natural shoreline. It is currently undergoing a review. Would you support strengthening it?

A: I would not try to dismantle it. I have no intention of tinkering with it. But I do think the place where I have the strongest concerns, the greatest differences with the environmentalists, is that I believe this country is built on the concept of private property rights.

I felt that law took away development rights of farmers and put an unfair burden on rural counties, with undeveloped shoreline, while it exempted places like Baltimore with mostly developed shoreline.

How about sprawl development, which is chewing up forests, wetlands and farmland? Counties have had little success controlling it. Environmentalists want the state to do more than set out "visions" for better directing growth.

A: I was very impressed with Germany when I first visited there in the 1960s -- how with a much denser population, they've kept an agrarian look, with people clustered around villages.

There is a role for public policy to stop the gobbling up of our land with so much development on 1-acre lots and larger. The state can play some role in directing housing dollars, transportation and school construction to provide incentives for more focused development.

But I'm not an advocate of having the state trying to make decisions for local governments in terms of their land use.

Q: Extending highway networks has been a major factor in sprawl development. Would you make new and expanded roads the "least favored" alternative in your transportation plans, as environmentalists suggest?

A: I'm much more likely to be looking at HOV [high occupancy vehicle] lanes, better park-and-ride facilities with bus service than putting tremendous amounts of capital into light rail, which isn't compatible with most existing commuting patterns.

On the subject of federal plans to force more car-pooling by employees commuting to work, I have a lot of problems with trying to force people to do what is contrary to human nature . . . to freely travel on their own schedule and the way they want to travel.

Q: Would you weaken state laws protecting wetlands and trees, two areas in which you've criticized regulatory delays or excesses?

A: I endorse goals of "no net loss" of wetlands for areas that are ecologically significant, near rivers or conservation areas; but we are defining things today as wetlands that are little more than a breeding ground for mosquitoes and have very little to do with protecting the environment.

As for the tree bill [Maryland's Forest Conservation Act], some aspects of it don't make a lot of sense as it has played out in practice. It doesn't make sense to make a developer of a farm cleared of trees 100 years ago plant a large amount of trees, driving up the cost of affordable housing; and I've seen a small bank in Sparks told to spend, I think, $40,000 to plant trees to expand a parking lot where there were no trees.

Q: Program Open Space, raided of more than $250 million to supplement general state funds since 1984, will soon be back to full funding. Such a pot of money has got to be tempting to a budget cutter like yourself.

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