Hampstead supports Glendening's 'smart growth'

LETTERS

July 12, 1998

The Sun's June 26 article about growth pressures in Hampstead left the unfortunate and incorrect impression that Hampstead officials are not supportive of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation program.

On the contrary, Hampstead officials in general -- and Town Manager Neil Ridgely in particular -- have been extremely supportive of the program, and state officials are working closely with Hampstead officials to help the town with important traffic control and revitalization projects.

But as the headline of the article aptly put it, Carroll County is "smarting from growth."

Over the past 25 years, the county's population has more than doubled, bringing with it rapid loss of farmland and heavy congestion on roads never intended for such use.

The town of Hampstead is one of the fastest growing communities in Maryland. Its population has grown by 132 percent in the past 18 years.

Those are precisely the kinds of trends the governor's "smart growth" initiative was designed to address. They are not unique to Carroll County. "Smart growth" recognizes that neither state nor county governments can afford to continue to provide the roads and other infrastructure and services required to support sprawl development, either financially or environmentally.

"Smart growth" attempts to preserve Maryland's best remaining natural resources before they are forever lost to development, while using the state budget as an incentive to support existing communities and to redirect growth to areas where the infrastructure is already in place or planned to support it.

Such a program obviously requires support from each county.

Contrary to the caption under the picture of Mr. Ridgely in The Sun, it is not the "state's plan" to increase the population of Hampstead, although that would be consistent with "smart growth" goals as long as that is the local plan as well.

As a former local government official, Mr. Glendening insisted that his "smart growth" initiative preserve local land use decision-making authority.

"Smart growth" simply says that there are limits on what the state can afford, and on what our environment can absorb: If new growth is not within a locally designated growth area that meets certain basic state criteria, the state is not going to help out financially.

It was interesting that The Sun's report used the metaphor of "an advancing army" to describe the rush of new development in Carroll County. It is precisely the same image Mr. Glendening invoked weeks ago when he announced the first awards under the Smart Growth Rural Legacy Program.

To stop that "advancing army," the governor announced plans to spend nearly $48 million to permanently preserve more than 16,000 acres of the most valuable natural areas in the state, including $1.5 million to protect 835 acres in the Little Pipe Creek area of Carroll County and another $3 million to protect 800 acres in the Piney Run area of Baltimore County, just across the border.

What spawned the "smart growth" initiative was this basic fact: If we continue the growth patterns that have been in place in this state for the past half century, we will consume as much land for development over the next 25 years as has been consumed statewide since Maryland was founded more than 350 years ago.

Marylanders deserve a smarter approach.

John W. Frece Annapolis

The writer is special assistant to the governor for "smart growth."

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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