Sewer, water plan is topic

Planners to detail infrastructure vision for council today

`Building block' for growth

But detractors fear expansion of facilities will create sprawl

July 22, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

The battle over sprawl in Anne Arundel County is headed underground.

That's where pipes move water and sewage, and where the infrastructure awaits the flushing toilets and running faucets of the developments to be built over the next 20 years.

"It's the kind of issue that doesn't get the public's attention because, well, it's sewage," said Councilman John J. Klocko III. "It's not exactly riveting. But really, it is the fundamental building block upon which the majority of growth is based."

Today, planners will share with the County Council their vision of how the water and sewer system should be expanded and upgraded. That could launch the latest in a long series of struggles over construction.

Already, the county's plan for where the pipes should go, laid out in a document the size of a telephone book, has its detractors.

"I see creeping water and sewer, and I just know development is going to follow," said James A. Hoage, a member of the county's planning advisory committee. "I'd like to see us step back and study this carefully before rushing to approve it." James J. Cannelli, an assistant planning director for the county, tried to downplay those worries. While his office can't stop developers from trying to build in areas where there is infrastructure, merely having added capacity doesn't mean they will gain permission, he said.

All growth, including the placement of water and sewer lines, is guided by the county's general development plan, Cannelli said.

He noted that past water and sewer plans prepared for development of 86 percent of the county's land, while this one shrinks that area to 41 percent.

"Our plan has tried to direct growth to the appropriate locations, and is indicative of our effort to minimize sprawl," Cannelli said.

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk also worries about development, because unlike previous updates to the water and sewer plan, this year's document does not spell out proposed changes.

"You'd have to go page by page, map by map, grid by grid, to find all the changes," she said. "I don't know how they expect us to do that."

County planners said it's been at least 10 years since they have done a thorough review of the document to try to bring it up to date. This year they chose to do a major rewrite.

The plan calls for strengthening the county's ability to move water around so that shortages could be solved by piping in water from other areas. It proposes building a new treatment plant in the northwest county, possibly in partnership with Howard County.

More controversial are proposals to expand two sewage treatment plants.

One expansion, at the Annapolis treatment plant, would allow it to accept waste from the Naval Academy, and require the county to pipe sewage through a line under the Severn River. That, Samorajczyk said, could raise concerns among environmentalists -- though others, such as planning director Thomas C. Andrews, said such an arrangement is a safe and common practice.

Today's meeting is at 8: 30 a.m. at the Arundel Center. The public may attend, but will not be allowed to speak.

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