Traffic issues dominate board race in Bel Air

March 05, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

All 11 candidates for the Bel Air Board of Commissioners cite traffic problems as one of the key issues facing the five-member board.

The extension of Route 22 west through Howard Park to Bolton Street -- proposed in the town's 1968 comprehensive plan but never implemented -- has been a controversial topic for years. Also, the proposed extension of MacPhail Road from Route 924 to Route 24 looms as a threat to dividing the Homestead-Wakefield school property.

The Route 22 project was put on hold recently by town planners after the State Highway Administration said it lacked funds to maintain the road.

That decision may have defused a controversy, but it did not reduce traffic, and most of those who hope to be elected say heavy traffic remains a critical issue in the town.

The candidates also cite economic development in the downtown area and the revitalization of Main and Bond streets -- both long-standing concerns of the board of commissioners -- as priorities, along with improving relations with the county and state.

The Bel Air commissioners serve four-year terms, which are staggered. One of the available seats is held by Susan McComas, an eight-year commissioner seeking re-election. A second is filled by Eugene Graybeal, who is not running for a second term.

The third seat is that of Stephen Burdette, appointed in January to replace Mark Decker, who was elected to the Harford County Council. By law, anyone appointed to the board must run in the next municipal election to remain in office.

Here is a look at each of the candidates for the board of commissioners. The election is March 14.

STEPHEN C. BURDETTE

* Age: 42.

* Occupation: architect with Anshen & Allen, Baltimore.

* Resident of Major's Choice.

* Member of Bel Air Community Development Commission; pasmember of Bel Air Historic District Commission.

Mr. Burdette wants to update the town's comprehensive plan by 1996, in cooperation with county and town planners. "Development is going to happen, and the best thing we can do is properly plan for it and try to have a vision for what we want Bel Air to be," he said.

He would like more cultural enrichment on Main and Bond streets, provided through the arts and more creative retail establishments. He also wants to preserve the historical aspects of downtown buildings.

"The character of Bel Air is to be found on Main Street, and I want to see us bring life to it. Right now it's a 9-to-5 area."

DAVID CAREY

* Age: 30.

* Occupation: attorney with Brown, Brown & Brown, Bel Air.

* Resident of English Country Manor.

* Vice president of Bel Air Community Development Commission; former member of Harford County Futures Commission and English Country Manor board of directors.

Mr. Carey says the commission needs to "take more of a leadership role" in solving traffic and other infrastructure problems by "getting the state, county and town together."

"Traffic congestion is already impeding the orderly economic development of the town, and threatens to destroy its small-town character," he says. "I don't have a specific solution. Deciding where to build a Bel Air beltway is beyond my expertise. But a solution is something we need to look for."

He does not advocate annexing residential areas "because the property tax is offset by the services required." He also is concerned about the future of Main Street.

"If we want it to be more than lawyers and accountants, if we want it to be more retail-oriented, we need to put together a vision for it. We shouldn't sit idly by as the stores on Main Street become offices."

ROBERT CASSILLY

* Age: 69.

* Occupation: Retired from civilian research and development position at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Teaches science part time for the Military Youth Corps, a federal program that helps high school dropouts get equivalency degrees.

* Resident of northern Bel Air.

* Member, North Bel Air Civic Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"My main concern is our neighborhoods," says Mr. Cassilly, who says town government is "slowly letting the commercial establishment infringe on established residential areas." He believes that too often residents have to "fight the town" to maintain their quality of life.

"The state roads through Bel Air are the responsibility of the state. The town should force the state to face up to those responsibilities," he says.

He believes the town should do more long-range planning, including getting cooperation from the state and the county on projects such as highway interchanges and commercial development along shared thoroughfares.

ARTHUR "DON" COATES JR.

* Age: 36.

* Occupation: certified public accountant, 1st Preference Mortgage Corp., Perry Hall.

* Resident of Homestead Village.

* Member, Homestead Village Association.

Mr. Coates says he wants to "keep Bel Air's small-town character while moving the town into the next century."

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