Growth tops pace of '80s in Balto. Co. Uneasy officials point to flight from city and outlying development

'Exacerbates the problem'

Newest forecast sees county population of 732,700 in year 2000

April 18, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's population is growing faster than during the 1980s, according to a new forecast that concerns local officials.

The county population should reach 732,700 by 2000, the forecast says, reflecting an exodus from Baltimore and home construction in outlying areas.

But if the next census shows the trend of city residents moving to the county continuing, it could hamper county efforts to strengthen older neighborhoods in Essex-Middle River, Lansdowne-Arbutus and along the Loch Raven Boulevard corridor, officials say.

"We probably need to accelerate our community conservation effort. It just exacerbates the problem," County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, said yesterday.

Just four years ago, county planners said they didn't expect the population to top 730,000 until after 2010.

But Baltimore has lost an estimated 61,000 people since 1990, and its population plunged to 675,401 last year -- the lowest in eight decades. The county's population last year was 717,859, according to the Census Bureau.

"We're still filling up," said county Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller. "We haven't seen a tapering off. It hasn't happened yet."

P. David Fields, director of the county's community conservation program, says the city and county now face the same challenge: "keeping their middle class."

"That's key in everything we do," he said, from proposing residential-commercial waterfront development in Middle River to reducing zoning densities on hundreds of acres and enacting strict design guidelines for the planned community of Honeygo.

Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, agreed but also saw a potential benefit. "The larger population could bring the county more political influence after the next redistricting. The [General Assembly] delegation will get stronger with more clout."

During the 1980s, trends showed thousands of Baltimore County residents leaving for outlying suburbs, such as in Harford and Carroll counties, while thousands moved in from the city. Many ++ of these were middle class.

But now, planners say, poorer city residents are fleeing, too, and many are coming to older neighborhoods already facing crime and drug problems, deteriorating apartments and concentrations of aging homeowners.

After the 1990 census, county planners thought the migration from Baltimore would slow, but it hasn't.

Predictions now are that the county's population will increase by 40,566 during the 1990s -- about 4,000 more than the increase in the previous decade. That's a 5.8 percent growth rate, compared with 5.6 percent growth on a smaller base during the 1980s.

"You might say, more of the same," said Dunbar Brooks, a demographer for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and a member of the county school board.

The new projection comes from county Planner Israel C. Patoka, based on Brooks' estimate of recent growth.

Despite the projections, Baltimore County's growth rate is that of an older suburb, far below the double-digit rate in the outer counties. The 1990 census showed that Howard grew 57 percent in the previous decade; Carroll grew 28 percent; Harford, 24 percent; and Anne Arundel, 14 percent.

Although Baltimore's suburbs continue to grow, the pace has become more moderate -- in some counties, about half the rate of the early 1990s.

Suburban growth appears to be slowing for several reasons: a decline in the birthrate, a sluggish economy and an increase in Maryland residents seeking their fortunes out of state.

And the General Assembly recently passed legislation designed combat sprawl, by focusing development in established communities.

The latest population forecast will allow Baltimore County to add several liquor licenses -- helping to boost development of restaurants in areas where the licenses have become scarce. In the county, licenses are regulated on the basis of population.

One license would be for either a tavern or restaurant in the 11th Election District, covering a section of northeastern Baltimore County from Perry Hall to Harford County; and another for a package-goods store in the crowded York Road corridor's 8th District.

The third could accommodate operators of an Owings Mills diner who need to prove that the area's population has grown enough to justify another liquor license.

According to the new figures, 301 people have moved to the 4th District, including Owings Mills and Reisterstown, since 1994. That's 89 more than Robert and Sandra Worgans' New Towne Diner on Reisterstown Road needs to qualify for a new liquor license.

"I had someone call me about [selling] a license, but they wanted $125,000 for it," more than his business could afford, said Robert Worgan, whose diner faces competition from national restaurant chains closer to Owings Mills Town Center.

Of the new population numbers, he said, "I'm very happy about it. I'm pretty much going to be shut out if I can't get [a license] this time."

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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