Carroll seeks watershed rezoning Plan would develop 600 acres around Liberty Reservoir

More industry is goal

Baltimore County, city officials oppose changing agreement

September 07, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials are insisting on changes to a 17-year-old agreement designed to preserve the Liberty Reservoir -- source of drinking water for 1.6 million people in metropolitan Baltimore -- and its watershed.

Citing a need to dramatically increase industry in the growing county, local officials announced plans in June to rezone more than 600 acres of conservation land -- most of it within the watershed of the 42-billion-gallon body of water.

But officials in Baltimore and Baltimore County say they will oppose any change to the Baltimore Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement that governs land use in the 160-square-mile watershed.

The city and surrounding counties reaffirm their commitment to the agreement periodically, the last time in 1990.

George G. Balog, Baltimore's director of public works, said current conservation should be maintained, not reduced. He said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will fight any change that could lead to more development.

"I would oppose any rezoning for anything now zoned conservation or agricultural within a square mile of the Liberty Reservoir," Balog said. "Rezoning infringes on the spirit of the agreement. We want to limit development in all aspects to protect water quality."

Carroll officials, however, want to change the pact, which now reads: "In Baltimore and Carroll counties, conservation and agricultural zoning of the reservoir watersheds should be maintained and not reduced."

The proposed revision says the counties would protect the reservoir watersheds by limiting "insofar as possible impacts from additional development" within the reservoir watersheds.

"We don't need further restrictions from the city or Baltimore County," said Carroll County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown.

"Why should Carroll County have its hands tied by a county and city that already have a 20 percent industrial base and speak so cavalierly? We can have good development and do it right," Brown said.

Carroll's plans also are vigorously opposed by Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

'Not smart growth'

"Carroll County should look elsewhere for industrial land," said Michael H. Davis, a spokesman for Ruppersberger.

"Why didn't it work to get its land industrialized 20 years ago? This is not smart growth."

Carroll County also wants a phrase -- "conservation and agriculture zoning will not be decreased" -- deleted from the agreement, said Donald C. Outen, chief of policy and planning in Baltimore County's Office of Environmental Planning and Resource Management.

Outen said he and other members of the Reservoir Technical Group, an advisory committee with representatives from throughout the region, were not informed of Carroll County's proposals.

"We will not support the change as it is worded," said Outen.

"We are trying to strengthen the agreement. This is a departure and it is for economic development reasons."

Business needs

With industry accounting for less than 10 percent of its tax base, Carroll is desperate to attract business. Land-use studies have targeted watershed areas near its major highways for industrial development.

The county has not built the roads, schools and other infrastructure to support rampant residential development. Its property tax rate increased 25 cents, to $2.62 per $100 of assessed value, last year, and may rise further unless industry can bear some of the burden.

Carroll Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he was unaware of the county's efforts to change the agreement, and added that he opposes development near the watershed.

"But we have got to get more industry in here or our taxes will go up," he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell could not be reached for comment.

In developing more industry, the county would rely on new technology that is "environmentally friendly," said Brown.

Light industry would have no impact on the watershed, he said.

"We have a track record for preserving the environment, and we are subject to both federal and state regulations," Brown said. "We don't need more regulations."

Until the debate is settled, the agreement remains in effect and Carroll is participating, said Catherine M. Rappe, Carroll's chief of water resource management and also a member of the Reservoir Technical Group.

"But, it is time to take a look at language written in 1984," she said. "Technology has changed, and we can address issues differently while still maintaining ecology."

Regional focus

Balog said he will seek regional support from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council -- which includes the city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

In addition, Balog said, city officials would, if necessary, attend rezoning hearings in Carroll and testify against the proposals.

In the reservoir drainage area are 14 acres owned by the city. Baltimore also maintains several water-quality monitoring stations at Liberty -- four in the reservoir and six in the watershed area.

"We are the owners of property in the county," Balog said. "When someone wants to develop, we are notified and respond as property owners.

"Our focus is on the control of pollutants from land developments and from agriculture."

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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