Anti-growth? No, smarter growth Moratoriums and more: Counties buck builders, focus shifts to rebuilding communities.

July 29, 1996

THE CONSENSUS in Harford County after the last election was that developers had bought the victors -- lock, stock and barrel. Builders put up billboards for their chosen candidates, while a vocal growth-control candidate got trounced.

But a funny thing happened when the builders came to collect: The County Council and County Executive Eileen Rehrmann slammed the door on them. Siding with Ms. Rehrmann, the council earlier this month rejected a last-minute proposal by builders to extend Harford's growth area to a rural section called Creswell. Noting that Harford's growth rate has calmed to half of what it was just five years ago, Ms. Rehrmann said she believes the current designated development zone is sufficient.

Harford officials said they don't intend to abandon services to the existing growth area and realize the need to continue to provide housing so the baby boomlet kids now growing up in Harford can live there if they choose.

But county officials also say they want to do a better job of preparing for more schools and parks prior to expanding the growth envelope. Also, they'd like to encourage more "in-fill" building to upgrade older, rundown communities off U.S. 40 rather than continually outfitting more virgin land for new homes.

The builders' cool reception in Harford has been in evidence elsewhere in the region, as a recent story in The Sun by Liz Atwood recounted: Anne Arundel County stayed home-construction in Pasadena. In Carroll County, the embattled planning commission is under pressure from residents and commissioners not to approve subdivisions. And Baltimore County extended a construction moratorium in areas with crowded elementary schools.

Government is also putting its money where its mouth is to redirect growth. Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger each recently unveiled low-interest loan programs to spur business and residential investment in poorer communities. Officials adroitly raised the income eligibility ceiling in an effort to tempt middle-class families back to these older neighborhoods.

Some homebuilders knock the recent restrictions as anti-growth and development. They're wrong. These moves are about smarter growth and development.

Pub Date: 7/29/96

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