Baltimore to protect watershed

Public works chief vows to scrutinize county development

`It is property we own'

Finksburg council wants water used as tool to curb sprawl

August 27, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Delivering a strong message to Carroll County last night, Baltimore's director of public works said the city will protect its watershed from development.

"We will scrutinize development and protect our watershed," George G. Balog told about 60 members of Finksburg Planning Area Council. "It is property we own, and we will control it."

The city property is within Carroll County and faces challenges from development.

Carroll's "strong sentiment toward growth has backed me up a little," Balog said. "I haven't gotten to the point where I can convince them they can't grow."

Council members, who have championed managed development, asked Balog to use water as leverage to control growth. When Carroll needs more water, it should be for its present population and not for more growth, said Donald Hoffman, council president.

"It is your water. You have control over it," Hoffman said.

Balog gave a history of the city's water arrangement with Carroll that dates to 1968 and discussed drought issues. But the topic that generated the most interest was Carroll's recent request for more water from Liberty Reservoir, a 43 billion-gallon lake the city owns.

The reservoir supplies water to about 6,700 homes and businesses in South Carroll, the county's most populated area and one that suffers from persistent water shortages.

Carroll officials met with Balog this month to ask for a 2 million-gallon increase in the daily allocation, set at 3 million gallons about 30 years ago. The county also needs the city's approval to expand its treatment plant on the reservoir.

Balog said he was amenable to both requests, but not if they adversely affected the watershed. Any agreement between Carroll and Baltimore must include language to protect the watershed, he said.

"Two million gallons is not a big issue when the city has about 80 billion gallons," he said. "We can spare the water, and if they plant more trees, we can compromise on the plant expansion. But I challenged the commissioners to protect the watershed with some control over development."

At their Aug. 5 meeting, the commissioners assured Balog that growth was occurring according to plan. They asked for common sense, Balog said.

"We don't want to make rules for Carroll County," he said. "My inclination is not to promote growth, but not to make things so tight that you can't build a house.

"We don't have blinders on. You can't build in the city. Baltimore County has reached its peak. Carroll is where building is going to occur."

The city needs more leverage on zoning issues in Carroll County, but does not expect to be involved in the daily workings of the county, Balog said.

Balog said Carroll officials have promised to draft an agreement -- to include language to protect the watershed -- for the additional water and the plant expansion.

"I am skeptical that language will be acceptable," he said, adding he was waiting for the agreement before making any promises.

The Finksburg council serves as a liaison between the county and the more than 17,000 residents of the unincorporated and undefined community along Route 140. Members have lobbied for better services, controlled development and conservation of resources, particularly the Liberty Reservoir and its watershed.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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