'Conservationist' to join Gary's transition team

November 16, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

The president of the Federation of South River Associations will join the transition team of the incoming county executive, John G. Gary, and two more environmental activists also may be added to the team.

"I don't consider myself an environmentalist; I consider myself a conservationist," said John Flood, 39, reached on a Midwest hunting trip. "Life in Anne Arundel County includes growth. We have to strike a balance."

The former marine contractor turned erosion control consultant has directed shoreline protection projects for the Annapolis Rotary Club at Quiet Waters Park and for other groups and county residents.

His projects, which used volunteer labor and often grant money, found favor with County Executive Robert R. Neall.

"John is middle of the road," said Tom Andrews, the county's chief environmental officer. "He is very willing to sit down and talk about issues. John should be a good addition to the transition team."

Mr. Andrews and Mr. Flood met about five years ago through the Annapolis Rotary Club. George C. Shenk, who is leading Mr. Gary's transition effort, said he asked Mr. Flood to help because he has known him for 20 years and respects him. The team will work from January through March.

Word that perhaps three people with strong ties to the environmental community will be on the team has allayed some fears in the environmental community, which supported Theodore Sophocleus, the Democrat who lost to Mr. Gary. Mr. Sophocleus had a lengthy position paper on the environment; Mr. Gary has said little except that he is open to hearing from environmental groups.

Mary Rosso, an environmental activist and head of the Anne Arundel Voters for Environmental Justice political group, noted that it doesn't matter how environmentally conscious the transition team's members are because they still report to the county executive.

"How dedicated that environmental advocate is, the better their credentials are, the more I will feel comfortable," she said.

Environmental leaders countywide said they will try to meet with Mr. Gary and influence his agenda. Environmental groups considered Mr. Gary's voting record in the House of Delegates abysmal.

Now, they are wary.

"I'd like to take a look at his idea of what land use ought to be. I think that is critical particularly to my part of the world; other parts are already used up," said Peg Burroughs, an environmentalist who served on Mr. Neall's transition and who lives on the West River.

The Gary administration also will have to tackle comprehensive rezoning of the county, which is done every decade, and update the general development plan. That is not due until 1996, but the work is starting, said Mr. Andrews.

Many watershed properties were down zoned in the last comprehensive rezoning. Activists said they fear Mr. Gary will increase zoning density.

"His voting record has been poor. But that was in the House of Delegates. Now he is representing the whole county. The citizens of Anne Arundel County have made the Bay a priority," said Joan Willey, chairwoman of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and a disappointed Sophocleus supporter. "I think anyone who is in that office is wise to take in account the wishes of the people."

Steve Carr, corresponding secretary of the Severn River Association -- the largest civic coalition in the county -- warned that Mr. Gary is likely to give policing the environment a low priority.

"He will continue the Bobby [Robert R.] Neall legacy of ignoring the Adequate Facilities Law; he will grant waivers," said Mr. Carr, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for delegate in District 30. He also helped form Mr. Sophocleus' environmental platform.

Environmentalists said they are looking for leadership from Mr. Gary in areas such as protecting the county's water supply and not granting development waivers that increase traffic and crowd schools. They also want him to examine whether protections for environmentally sensitive areas are sufficient, and keep the Redskins from building a stadium in Laurel.

Another big issue for the administration is the county's trash. The county needs to spend $87 million by the end of the decade to clean up and expand its landfill in Millersville. But the Millersville site will be full by 2008. Replacing it could cost more than $1 million an acre.

The county also must decide whether to build a trash incinerator.

And, more than $30 million will be needed to upgrade sewage treatment plants to meet Chesapeake Bay initiatives by 1998.

Given his campaign promise, environmentalists hope the new administration will listen to their concerns.

"John has been painted as someone who is not particularly green," Mr. Shenk said, adding that Mr. Gary is more environmentally concerned than conservation organizations suspect. "He wants the environmental groups to tell him what the concerns are."

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