Gary undone by his record on growth Arundel executive was haunted by ties to developers

Election 1998

November 05, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan contributed to this article.

The first person to approach defeated Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary as he stepped from the microphone after delivering his concession speech wasn't a disappointed supporter or well-wisher but a developer with a problem.

"Sorry about the loss," the developer said of Gary's defeat by Janet S. Owens. "About that zoning problem, do you think we can still get that worked out?"

Gary nodded and said, "We'll see what we can do."

It was a telling moment for a man opponents charged has plastered every tree-covered corner of the county with new buildings and subdivisions.

Gary said residents didn't understand the law or growth policies.

"I get so tired of being labeled pro-development," he said at a recent housing conference.

During the past two weeks, he pointed to thwarted developments in Annapolis and Pasadena, a General Development Plan that limits growth and parkland purchases in South County.

But his support of large, unpopular development projects, including an auto racetrack, a mall near Baltimore-Washington Internatioal Airport and a Mountain Road bypass, spoke louder to voters than the acres he saved.

Voters also noted that of Gary's largest campaign contributors, seven of 10 were developers. The former developer could not escape the association.

His recent assertions constituted "a last-minute attempt to find the middle ground," said Kathleen Shatt, chairwoman of the county Democratic State Central Committee. "Fortunately, the voters could see right through that. If he was doing all these great things to prevent growth, why haven't we seen them over the past four years?"

Owens courted anti-growth votes. At a news conference yesterday, the daughter of a South County farmer repeated her pledge to preserve farmland and slow down growth.

She wasn't the only one in the county to latch onto a save-the-land election stance.

John Klocko, representing Crofton and South County, saved his council seat by pointing to slow-growth policies in his area, home to some of the last large open spaces in the county.

Klocko made many constituents happy when he took on the large church proposed for rural farmland in South County and worked to pass 46 amendments to the General Development Plan limiting growth.

Owens said yesterday that she would not comment on whether she plans to overhaul the county's planning and code enforcement department, which oversees building permits.

But some of her supporters say a shake-up wouldn't be a big surprise.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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