Incorporating Edgewood Harford County: Move to municipal status may not be the medicine for suburban decay.

February 12, 1997

EDGEWOOD IS among the poorer communities in Harford County. Its crime and drug problems triggered the sheriff to open a branch office there. Porn and pawn traders ply their wares along Pulaski Highway.

But there are also signs of a community with grand potential: New homes with bay windows rising near the cattail vistas of Otter Point Creek. The forested buffers that separate Edgewood from a portion of Aberdeen Proving Ground. A splashy, "Gucci"-style grocery that Mars Super Markets Inc. recently opened, with hardwood floors, wide aisles and bright design.

By virtue of its location near the water and major highways, this southern Harford County community has a lot going for it -- and a lot of recent history working against it.

For all those reasons, a group of residents is trying to build support for incorporating Edgewood as a formal town of some 40,000 people. Although Maryland has a strong county system of government, there are nearly 160 municipalities in the state, including three in Harford.

Incorporation would allow Edgewood to collect its own taxes, choose a council and mayor, form a police department. First, roughly 4,000 signatures must be collected to place a question on the ballot, County Council approval to do so and then a vote in favor by the electorate.

The biggest reason not to incorporate Edgewood is the problem that bedevils Baltimore City: a fixed boundary for an area with a preponderance of low incomes.

Edgewood advocates can't argue that government has ignored them, since the state designated it a business enterprise zone. Also, the county and state have invested millions of dollars in new roads and centers for seniors and youth. As to the notion that an incorporated Edgewood could at least ban unsavory X-rated stores, that's dubious. Harford's state's attorney has struggled to do so, but been stifled in federal court.

County Executive Eileen Rehrmann's efforts to revitalize Edgewood must continue. Her colleagues elsewhere in the Baltimore-Washington corridor are trying to accomplish the same in frayed suburbs such as Essex, Glen Burnie and inner-Prince George's County. As for incorporation, it is costly medicine and does not seem to be the cure for what ails Edgewood.

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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