Suburbs' spurt has a new look Population boom: Baltimore's suburbs are experiencing a growth spurt, but the source of that growth is not as much flight from the city as it is immigration, migration from other suburbs and a rise in the birth rate.

April 02, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Eugene Samarin came to Baltimore County from Moscow with an immigration visa. Wayne Schuster traveled from Kansas City to Carroll County with a moving van. And Anna Nicole Watts made an early debut in Anne Arundel County with a healthy cry.

Each contributed to the recent growth of Baltimore's suburbs -- and each helps to debunk the myth that suburban sprawl is being driven by flight from the city.

Actually, the area's five counties grew by nearly 130,000 residents from April 1, 1990, to July 1, 1995, well over the 45,000-person drop in Baltimore's population. Other forces -- foreign immigration, domestic migration and births -- are driving suburban growth. And the most important factor varies among the counties.

Meanwhile, the numbers of new residents -- even greater than in the 1970s -- continue to strain schools and other public services, and to prompt new demands for growth controls.

In the early '90s, the biggest surprise for suburban growth was the natural population increase, demographers say. All of the suburban counties saw an increase in births, as baby boomers grabbed their last chances at parenthood.

"What people were not ready for is the mini baby boomlet," said Dunbar Brooks, a demographics expert at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, a regional planning group.

The increase is evident at the Anne Arundel Medical Center's new maternity facility, where Anna Nicole Watts was born Feb. 18. The first child of Jeannie and Gary Watts arrived at the gleaming Rebecca Clatanoff Pavilion four weeks early, but went home to Annapolis after a week in intensive care.

7+ "She's been a trouper," Mr. Watts said.

Maternity pavilion is busy

The medical center opened the maternity pavilion last fall because the old ward in downtown Annapolis couldn't keep up with demand, said Bill Bradel, administrative team leader for Women's and Children's Services.

From 1990 to 1995, 34,426 babies were born in Anne Arundel, accounting for 57 percent of the county's new residents. The pavilion will be able to deliver 4,500 babies a year, compared with 3,000 babies a year in the old ward.

But in the past six months, the number of births at the center has increased 10 percent, and administrators already are planning an expansion, Mr. Bradel said.

Demographers believe the birth rate will decline during the next five years, but the effect on the school systems will be felt for at least another 10 years.

"There's a hue and cry to build more schools," said Anne Arundel demographer Sandy Speer. Anne Arundel's school enrollment has grown from 65,242 students in 1990 to 71,750 today.

Meanwhile, Anne Arundel is under another type of growth pressure: A third of the new residents are migrating from Prince George's County. That trend, Mr. Brooks said, reflects a continuation of white flight from Washington and now from Prince George's County.

Whatever the cause, Anne Arundel is struggling to provide water and sewer services to the new residents. Community leaders, businessmen and planners are working on a land use plan that will outline how much development should be allowed, where parks should be located and whether some areas should be off-limits to developers.

ESOL classes are jammed

Although the rush to create new suburbs has waned in Baltimore County, the population grew by 23,235 in the first half of the decade because of a rise in births and foreign immigration.

To see the effect, look no further than the Wellwood International Center in Pikesville, where 9-year-old Eugene Samarin has been studying in an English for Speakers of Other Languages class since he arrived from Moscow in December. His class of five pupils shares a room outside the nurse's office with five kindergartners.

The walls are decorated with alphabet posters and number charts. While the older children sit at one table reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," the younger children sit at another table coloring a picture of spring.

ESOL classes include immigrants, as well as students whose parents are visiting or working temporarily in the area. But throughout the county school system, the classes are jammed -- some teachers tutor students in closets and hallways.

The immigration of more than 7,000 residents from abroad has led to record numbers of students enrolled in such courses, and in the past few years, enrollment has hovered at about 1,500,

compared with 400 students in 1981.

50 languages in schools

Most of the immigrants arriving in the early part of the decade came from the former Soviet Union, but that has leveled off and the schools are seeing a rise in other ethnic groups, said Susan C. Spinnato, ESOL supervisor.

"We have 50 languages in Baltimore County schools," she said. The most common foreign languages are Korean, Russian and Spanish, but teachers also must work with students speaking Ibo, a language in Nigeria, and Amharic, a language in Ethiopia.

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