Closing the barn door after the development

Adequate facilities: Baltimore County councilman's bill won't remedy existing growth problems.

June 26, 1999

REQUIRING communities to have adequate schools, roads, water and sewer lines before any commercial or residential development takes place is just plain common sense.

Yet Baltimore County's proposed managed growth ordinance, as drafted by County Council member T. Bryan McIntire, won't correct the traffic and school problems that vex his Owings Mills constituents. It may actually discourage redevelopment efforts.

Since 1979, Baltimore County's master plans have called for intensive commercial and residential development in Owings Mills in the northwest and Perry Hall-White Marsh-Honeygo in the northeast. Rural areas would be preserved and in-fill development allowed in established neighborhoods such as Catonsville or Rosedale.

In accordance with the county's master plan, scores of houses, offices and stores were constructed, along with roads, schools, utilities and playgrounds in Owings Mills and White Marsh. As it turns out, the influx of people overwhelmed the public facilities, particularly in Owings Mills, where there are problems with traffic as well as crowded middle and high schools.

But Mr. McIntire's legislation will have no impact on problems resulting from past and current development in Owings Mills, Reisterstown and other Northwest communities. His measure would only affect future development areas. Since the master plan now under consideration doesn't recommend new growth areas -- no future Owings Mills -- the bill Mr. McIntire is circulating for comment before introducing it at a council session this fall would only affect efforts to revitalize declining communities such as Essex, Dundalk and Arbutus.

Ironically, its stringent requirements for building roads, schools, playgrounds and libraries before development occurs could discourage critical investment in neighborhoods and compound the pressure to build outside the county's designated growth areas.

Residents of Owings Mills have legitimate complaints that need attention. Mr. McIntire is correct in pointing out that development and infrastructure don't work in tandem nearly as often as they should. Good planning and proper budgeting should anticipate and reduce the time that development and infrastructure are out of sync, minimizing problems.

But Mr. McIntire's bill is no antidote for any failures of the past. It fails to address the county's foreseeable development problems.

Pub Date: 6/26/99

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