Governor says Carroll County is too slow in fighting sprawl

Leaders criticized as ignoring realities of development

June 13, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening delivered a stinging rebuke to the Carroll County commissioners yesterday, singling out the county as a consistent laggard in adopting Smart Growth policies to contain sprawl.

In a speech to mayors and other municipal officials in Ocean City, the Democratic governor compared Republican-dominated Carroll to "the `before' picture in a Smart Growth ad."

"The county leaders have consistently resisted Smart Growth. Now we see in the paper that they have some of the worst pollution in the state, getting an F from the American Lung Association. They have water shortage problems year in and year out," Glendening told the Maryland Municipal League's summer convention.

Julia W. Gouge, president of Carroll's Board of County Commissioners, said the governor's comments were "unfair" and accused him of refusing to meet with county leaders.

Glendening's remarks were part of an otherwise upbeat speech during which he praised Maryland's city and town officials for their efforts to implement his Smart Growth policies. Carroll was the only jurisdiction he criticized. The governor did not identify the county by name but left no doubt which jurisdiction he was referring to when he said it was the home of New Windsor Mayor Jay Gullo, president of the municipal league.

Glendening listed Gullo, Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan and Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman as officials "who understand the need for Smart Growth and are working with us to do things right."

The governor renewed his criticism of the Carroll commissioners' decision in August to rezone 145 acres of the Rash family farm in the southern part of the county for a 50-house subdivision.

"Most recently, a poor zoning decision - one might say a `Rash' decision - made last year by two of the three commissioners is being used as a precedent in attempts to rezone surrounding farms, potentially setting the stage for more sprawl," Glendening said.

The governor has publicly questioned the decision before, but yesterday's criticism in a statewide forum was especially pointed.

Gouge expressed disappointment that the governor singled out the county as a bad example.

"We were doing Smart Growth long before the governor ever talked about Smart Growth," said Gouge, who dissented from the Rash farm decision. "Have we done everything perfectly? Absolutely not. But I would say there are not too many counties across the state or across the nation that have done everything perfect as far as growth is concerned."

The other two commissioners, Donald I. Dell and Robin B. Frazier, could not be reached for comment.

Glendening's criticism followed by less than a week the commissioners' rejection of a request by developers who pointed to the Rash rezoning as a precedent. Wednesday, the commissioners denied a request to rezone 42 acres in Woodbine for 24 houses.

The governor's comments about air pollution in Carroll referred to a May report by the lung association that gave 10 Maryland counties and Baltimore failing grades for air quality. The report also flunked counties such as Anne Arundel and Prince George's, where Glendening's Smart Growth policies have been embraced more warmly.

Gouge noted that much of Carroll County's air pollution comes in from the Ohio Valley and is not affected by local land-use decisions.

Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill defended the reference to Carroll's air-pollution problems.

"What he was saying is that they always characterize themselves as a rural county that doesn't face these urban pressures," Morrill said.

Gouge said the commissioners have been seeking a meeting with the governor for almost a year but cannot get an appointment.

"I would like to see a positive relationship. I know the other commissioners would like to see a positive relationship with the governor. I think it would be positive if it were a two-way street," she said.

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