International team of experts focuses on area's growth issues "It is the people who live in South County, who know and care the most about the region, who must shape its future." From the visitors' report

November 22, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

An international team of growth and development experts had this to say about picturesque southern Anne Arundel County: "There is no consensus on the desired nature, pace and location of growth."

Around South County, everyone already knew that.

In that part of the county, south of Annapolis and near Washington, developers, environmentalists, farmers, and county officials have long debated growth.

The hope was that the team's report, released Friday and drawn from a weeklong visit to the area last month, might finally provide some answers about how to stop the warring and begin a plan for the 140 square miles of scattered waterfront communities, sensitive wetlands and farms.

"It is the people who live in South County, who know and care the most about the region, who must shape its future," the report stated.

Here are some of the main questions the eight U.S., Canadian and European team members considered and their recommendations:

How much growth is appropriate in South County?

The team was impressed with the county's small area planning committee initiative, which divides the county into 16 zones and appoints 12- to 15-member committees to make recommendations to county officials for growth.

The report recommended replacing the 16 committees with one permanent committee, which would continue to meet after the small area planning process is completed next year.

Residents who spoke with the international team have begun forming a nonprofit group that would determine the community's needs and organize participation.

"The idea is a group that will be a bridge between all the already established groups," said Lara Lutz of the Alliance of the Chesapeake Bay, one of the organizations that sponsored the visit.

The visitors also recommended that South County develop "quality of life indicators" to monitor such trends as the amount of open space per capita, crime and vehicle accident statistics, high school test scores and water-quality tests.

How can South County keep the area's farms and commercial fisheries?

In a recommendation likely to raise more debate, the report called for an agricultural district that would require clustering of all new development on agricultural land. In the same vein, it recommended adoption of a "right to farm" law in the county.

"Farms surrounded by subdivisions won't survive," the report states.

The report also recommended that for every 10 pleasure craft dock slips, one be designated as a low-priced rental slip for watermen. The county was also encouraged to turn abandoned and dilapidated docks into affordable docking space for

watermen.

How can South County create and sustain a community identity?

The report suggested establishing public meeting places in all communities, as well as showcasing the natural and historical resources of South County to the rest of Anne Arundel. "Places are like stained-glass windows, each piece, colorful and interesting on its own, but put together, they form a masterpiece," the report read.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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