USF&G expansion: what's at stake

April 27, 1995

It appears that progress is slowly being made toward a settlement of the differences between USF&G Corp. and the residents of Mount Washington.

In preparation for transferring 800 of its employees from its downtown headquarters to its campus straddling the Baltimore city-county line, the insurance giant has proposed a major expansion that has Mount Washington up in arms. The residents claim that the company has planned too much too fast and too secretively.

The result is a souring of the good relations that have existed between the company and the community since the early 1980s.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County politicians have watched with alarm as the controversy has escalated, leaving them with a particularly thorny dilemma.

On the one hand, they want to do all they can to please USF&G -- the second-largest company in the Baltimore region, with 6,500 employees and revenues last year of $3.2 billion. Otherwise, company officials could become so vexed over a delay of their expansion plans that they might carry out their threat of moving the entire operation to another part of the country.

On the other side are the middle-class residents of Mount Washington, one of the most stable communities in the city. Some residents have made their own threat of moving, to somewhere beyond the city limits and onto another jurisdiction's tax rolls.

This is mainly a city concern, though Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has rightly noted that what's bad for the city, such as a destabilized Mount Washington, is also bad for the county that surrounds it.

Apparently, though, representatives of USF&G and Mount Washington have been drawing closer to a truce during recent meetings with city and county officials. The dimensions of one of the proposed structures may be altered to make it less obtrusive.

Also, a task force may be formed to address one of the community's primary concerns -- namely, how the expansion will affect traffic patterns in the neighborhood.

The city and county governments must continue working together to narrow the distance between the company and the community. The twin objectives of keeping USF&G in the region and maintaining Mount Washington's stability should not be so difficult to attain. The job can be done.

It better be. Too much is at stake.

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