On homes too close to highwaysThe article in The Sun...


April 25, 1999

On homes too close to highways

The article in The Sun ("Homes won't get sound barriers," April 18) clearly illustrates why urban sprawl will not be contained until more citizen control is exercised over building decisions in the counties.

Although this article discussed a new community in Howard County being built so close to Route 100 that hearing could be damaged, this could represent any county in Maryland.

The so-called planning departments are, in fact, building facilitators.

Their ties to the building community are too close and deep. That the politicos don't step in is also not surprising as they are deeply indebted to the developers for campaign cash.

Why the planning department decided they needed to grant waivers so the development would be economically feasible is beyond me.

Why should a government agency bend, break and mutilate building rules, grant innumerable waivers and put people's health at risk to save the builder from a poor purchase and guarantee them a profit? The builder should have been forced to build a noise abatement earthen berm. If it was too expansive -- tough -- then don't build.

Granting building waivers is too important a task to be left to a nameless, faceless planning department whose credibility is questionable at best.

To control sprawl and stop this idiotic development, citizen control committees must be formed in every county to review and grant waivers.

Builders, planners and zoning experts are invited not to apply. We need to bring honesty, integrity and common sense back into the process.

Alan McAllister, Severna Park

Bike path bad for stream valley

The Patapsco Valley State Park is under siege by various parties who would like to use it to promote their vision of a major tourism corridor encompassing the Patapsco Valley.

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee, composed primarily of business people in Ellicott City and Oella areas, has applied to the Maryland Heritage Authority for "certification" to qualify the Patapsco Valley as a Maryland Heritage Area.

This heritage area includes much of the Patapsco Valley State Park. The management plan is an estimate of the potential for increased visitation and tourism-related revenues.

As described in internal documents of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, the critical component of a management plan for the Patapsco Valley is "market and economic studies to define existing tourism conditions, untapped tourism markets, strategies for capturing untapped markets, projections of potential economic impacts in terms of key performance measures, and assessment of the relative `bang for the buck' of investing public sector dollars in strategic projects." The minutes of the Heritage Greenway Committee as far back as June 29, 1995, describe using the "trail system as a `wedge' for the development of a corridor" in the Patapsco Valley.

John R. Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, admitted in a letter April 5 that "trail development is a DNR priority in the Patapsco Valley State Park in order to alleviate overcrowding."

He doesn't suggest how building this paved bike road and tying it into the "Baltimore and Annapolis Trail," a segment of the proposed 2,000-mile "East Coast Greenway Trail," is supposed to alleviate overcrowding in the Patapsco State Park.

On the contrary, these trails are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of bikers down the trails and into the park each year. The trail planned through Patapsco park is really a 10-foot-wide paved road with a minimum clear cut distance required on each side of the trail for an effective width of 25 feet. The trail is also being designed for use by disabled persons, which requires contouring of slopes with heavy equipment to meet minimum grade requirements for disabled persons.

The governor needs to understand the environmental community has major concerns over destruction of wildlife habitat and increased stream pollution. This is just one of many bike roads planned for stream valleys across Maryland. While bike trails are fine when placed along roads or utility rights-of-way, they should not be used in narrow stream valleys that are the remaining habitat for wildlife and provide protection for water supplies.

Bob DeGroot, Rockville

The writer is president of Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation.

A soldier's cry: `Earn this'

A friend recently passed on to me a column by Dick Feagler in the Cleveland Plain Dealer dated August 5, 1998. I was very moved by what Mr. Feagler had to say.

The column was about the young men who sacrificed their lives for the sins of others on a beach called Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in World War II and the meaning given their sacrifice in Steven Spielberg's movie, "Saving Private Ryan."

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