Region's outlying suburbs not immune to urban problems, new report warns

November 05, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

As the population of the Baltimore region continues to move farther into the outlying suburban counties, crime, poverty and bad schools will follow, says a new report touting regional cooperation and controlled growth.

"If you think it is just in the city, you are out of date," said Joseph McNeely, president of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, which commissioned the study.

CPHA will hold a symposium today at the University of Baltimore to discuss why the city and the suburbs must work together to ensure the prosperity of the region.

The report shows that pockets of Baltimore, Harford, Anne Arundel and Howard counties -- the places where city dwellers fled in the 1950s to escape high crime and poverty -- are beginning to encounter some of the same social problems as the city.

"Where these inner-ring suburbs are is exactly where Highlandtown and Gardenville were in the 1970s," McNeely said. "We can show you what's next" for older suburban areas.

The CPHA report hopes to spur elected officials and citizens into investing money for revitalization in older core neighborhoods and communities instead of continuing to build on the outer edges.

Baltimore City and its surrounding suburbs must work together to combat a trend of poverty, unaffordable housing, high crime and ineffective schooling that threatens to polarize the region into poor and rich pockets, McNeely said.

The report compared building trends and population shifts in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne's counties.

"There is a dangerous social and economic polarization occurring in the Baltimore region," reports Myron Orfield, an authority on the dynamics of metropolitan regions. "Poverty and social and economic need have concentrated and are deepening in central-city neighborhoods and older suburban places. This concentration destabilizes schools and neighborhoods, is associated with increases in crime and results in the flight of middle-class families and businesses."

Some of the areas pointed out in the study that suffer from neglect are Havre de Grace and Edgewood in Harford County and Essex, Middle River and Garrison in Baltimore County. By not investing in older neighborhoods, the developing counties are forced to build in the outlying areas to bolster the tax base, the report says. But, the report warns, they could be building the declining suburbs of the future.

As Baltimore City and Baltimore and Harford counties struggle to bolster their tax bases as their older neighborhoods decline, the wealthier counties, such as Anne Arundel and Howard, continue to build newer neighborhoods. The money for road construction and infrastructure is steered toward those areas, further draining money that could be used for revitalization.

"There is an issue of fairness here," McNeely said. "We are spending 75 percent of road money on 25 percent of the population. This is not just happening in Baltimore. It is happening all over the country."

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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