Robey issues growth concept Platform calls for input from residents, impact review from developers

Affordable housing sought

Schrader says ideas of his opponent are 'echoes' of his own

October 01, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

After talking vaguely for months about the need to better manage growth, Democratic candidate for county executive James N. Robey has issued a growth platform that stresses communicating with residents, reviewing the impact of development and encouraging more affordable housing and public transportation.

The platform, first posted on Robey's Internet site Tuesday night, leaves plenty of room for interpretation in some areas but is more detailed than that of his Republican opponent, Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, who has made managing growth the centerpiece of his campaign.

Schrader and his advisers yesterday ridiculed Robey's ideas on growth as "echoes" of their own, but in fact, many of Robey's specific proposals have not been discussed by Schrader during the campaign. Robey, the former police chief, focused most of his proposals on including frustrated residents in discussions on growth:

Robey's proposals would:

Require developers to do more before formally submitting new projects for county review, such as detailing projected increases in population, traffic, school enrollment and other expected effects of a proposed project. Developers would also have to meet with communities to explain the project and try to address concerns.

Schrader said this idea is a copy of his proposal to require developers to submit fiscal impact statements, but unlike Schrader, Robey doesn't want the approval of residential projects to be tied to economic impact studies. Robey worries that Schrader's plan would discourage affordable, moderately priced housing for blue-collar workers -- the kind of housing Robey says he wants to encourage in his platform.

Start a "Home Buyer Bulletin" to tell prospective homebuyers about the prospects of future development to avoid surprise when new homes go up next door.

Convene a broad-based panel, including residents and developers, to formulate a vision to guide next year's General Plan process -- which will do much to determine how the county grows for the next decade. This would be part of Robey's larger effort to include the public in General Plan and development discussions.

"In my meetings with a lot of different community groups, it became very clear to me that there was a lack of understanding about the entire [development] process," Robey said. "Communities spend a lot of money on attorneys, the county spends a lot of nights in meetings. I'm convinced that in some cases, not all, in some cases these issues can be resolved."

Robey's most specific legislative proposal is to bar developers from trading land for higher-density development rights within 2,500 feet of the Patuxent watershed -- a critical issue for western Howard communities such as Dayton and Fulton. This sometimes controversial practice of "density exchange," which has allowed clusters of new homes in western Howard, would still be allowed further from the watershed.

The rest of Robey's platform is more vaguely worded. He would like to find more money to buy and preserve farmland, but he says the money might not be available.

He wants to look at whether to strengthen the ordinance that links the pace of growth to its impact on schools and roads, but he says the answer may be that no change is needed. He also wants to examine whether the impact on police and fire services should be considered in reviewing proposed projects.

"I'll always maintain an open mind," Robey said.

Robey also discussed the need to encourage more public transportation and to protect the environment. And he included a plank about revitalizing older communities, which Schrader quickly noted has long been one of his campaign planks. (Robey says this idea was originally pushed by Democratic Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, before Schrader).

Schrader said that even though many of Robey's other ideas aren't taken from his campaign platform, they are familiar.

"You see, Jim doesn't know about a lot of this stuff, so he thinks it's innovative," he said.

Robey said it doesn't matter if his ideas are new.

"You don't have to be innovative," he said. "Many of these things we're talking about have been and are being done in a lot of different areas. We have to decide what's right for Howard County."

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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