Growth experts, residents discuss the impact of sprawl Development round table brings participants from around U.S. and Europe

October 14, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

In a fishing village that has remained largely unchanged for three generations, dozens of bureaucrats, growth and development experts and frustrated Anne Arundel residents debated sprawl, subdivisions and the death of small-town, rural living.

The round table on growth and development yesterday was part of a weeklong "Countryside Exchange," in which experts from around the United States and Europe tour the southern portion of Arundel to provide an outside perspective on how to combine growth with historic and ecological preservation.

The morning started civilly, with coffee, small talk and laminated name tags. But it wasn't long before someone politely suggested that county officials were tied to big developers, and someone else implied that anti-growth activists can be irrational.

"The problem we have around here is one of philosophy," said Weems Duvall, an eighth-generation county resident and a member of the activist group South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development.

"The county is saying, 'Growth is good. We'll just manage and control it.' But the fact of the matter is, we're dying a death of 1,000 small cuts," Duvall said. "The county is so pro-growth that, at this point, the best we can hope is to get them to be growth-neutral."

Things were bound to get heated.

In this part of Arundel -- hungrily eyed by developers for housing and shopping developments because of its location near Annapolis and Washington -- residents are sensitive to the changing face of their rural heritage.

The two-hour round table tackled questions that counties throughout Maryland and the nation are grappling with:

How how much growth is appropriate?

When and where should growth occur?

How can a once-rural county wed development with cultural, historic and environmental preservation?

The discussion got technical at times. Numerous members of the discussion said development in southern Arundel costs taxpayers more than it attracts because of the need to expand schools, roads and sewers.

"The average school classroom costs $90,000," said Mike Paone of the Maryland Office of Planning. "And it costs $200,000 for every new mile of sewer line and $4 million for every new mile of four-lane road."

To the approval of many in the audience, local anti-sprawl activist Charles "Sonny" Tucker said, "And who pays for sprawl? We do. We pay in taxes, in loss of the environment, in loss of our heritage."

Tucker, who owns a small farm, said the nation loses five farms for every one it saves. "There's no longer a grain elevator here in the county," he said. "Or a farm equipment dealership. The area is being farmed by only about 15 young farmers these days."

The visiting experts will spend the rest of the week meeting with county government officials and residents. Tomorrow night, they will present their suggestions for allowing growth while avoiding sprawl.

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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