Growth plan may benefit executive Glendening wants development in more urban areas

Glen Burnie may gain

Gary had promised revitalization for North County

December 29, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to stop costly suburban creep may prove a political boon to his frequent critic running Anne Arundel County.

A first-blush look at the Democratic governor's Smart Growth plan, which he will present to the General Assembly next month, reveals an unintended consequence: The measure would almost certainly help Anne Arundel's Republican executive, John G. Gary, keep vital campaign promises to urban North County.

By steering state aid and business loans toward aging urban areas, such as the county executive's much-touted Glen Burnie Town Center project to help the dilapidated business district, Glendening's plan would help Gary calm what he has described as Anne Arundel's "civil war" pitting South County haves against North County have-nots.

"It looks like I'm going to get some state help," Gary said last week. "This is a plus for me. What they pretty much have done is adopt what we've already identified as important growth management policy."

During his successful 1994 election, Gary promised North County voters an assortment of municipal amenities as a reward for accommodating such unappealing civic necessities as the new Glen Burnie Detention Center, which will open next year on Ordnance Road. Ice rinks, sports arenas, public swimming pools, a community college hub -- all have been proposed for the area.

Gary has pitched his $2.2 million plan to revitalize Glen Burnie, the pre-mall commercial heart of North County, to business groups and legislators in recent weeks.

"What would make a person go to Glen Burnie?" Gary asked during a speech to Anne Arundel Trade Council. "I mean, unless you are going to buy an automobile."

But Gary never expected money from Glendening, whom he has criticized for financing two football stadiums, leaving behind a bloated pension system in Prince George's County and settling a legal dispute with Baltimore schools for $254 million without consulting other jurisdictions.

"If not money falling from the sky, at least it shows that the state and county are thinking along the same lines," said Diane Hutchins, Gary's liaison to the General Assembly. "Having served on a budget committee, the county executive understands there's no such thing as found money."

Few fiscal details have been set out yet, but state aid for Anne Arundel could run into millions of dollars. The money could help pay not only for urban renewal but also to restore abandoned industrial sites known as "brownfields" along Odenton rail lines, in Brooklyn Park, and near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"Their political philosophies parallel when it comes to growth," said Del. Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat. "It's not necessarily an original plan."

Development plan

The philosophical underpinnings of Glendening's legislation could have been lifted from a draft of Anne Arundel's revised General Development Plan. The growth master plan, last updated 10 years ago, will be presented to the County Council for consideration in February.

Two development goals

The thrust of Glendening's proposal is twofold: direct future residential development to areas with roads and utilities; and spend public funds renovating decrepit commercial centers rather than subsidizing new ones.

The governor would use state money to encourage urban development and "clustered" residential building -- more than 3.5 homes per acre -- while discouraging sprawling housing tracts by withholding new school money. The state gave Anne Arundel $129.8 million for Board of Education operations and $9.6 million for school construction this year.

Anne Arundel's draft development plan charting growth in the 416-square-mile county is guided by those same principles, which have dictated local development since the late 1980s. That could mean an infusion of state money for Anne Arundel's three growth management areas -- the Parole district in Annapolis, Odenton Town Center and Glen Burnie. Gary planned to accomplish those revitalization projects on his own.

"It's an unexpected bonus, assuming it pans out the way we think it should," said Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman.

Since 1989, 90 percent of new county homes have been built in areas that have sewer systems or where they are planned. Half the county's new residential development since 1991 has come in West County, mainly around the Odenton growth-management area.

Basic points

"You are seeing a point in time where land-use planners are coming back to some very basic, consistent points," said Councilman John J. Klocko, a Crofton Republican who represents the county's only rural district.

Anne Arundel is positioned to benefit from Glendening's plan largely because it is not growing rapidly, at least compared to other Baltimore-area counties.

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