Report on metro area irks local participants

Vision 2030 study ignores input from Carroll, some say

March 08, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Even though it remains a work in progress, a government-commissioned plan for the future of the Baltimore metropolitan area has irked many of the Carroll County residents who were asked to help write it.

The plan, Vision 2030, would impose Baltimore's economic, social and transportation woes on a county that should be allowed to govern itself in peace, Carroll residents said yesterday in a presentation to the county commissioners.

Vision 2030 evolved last year from the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board's efforts to design a future in which urban, suburban and rural traffic problems would be lessened. The plan has expanded to address other issues such as water capacity, housing density, social equity, economic development and intergovernmental relations.

In the fall, the commissioners asked a cross section of 12 county residents and employees to represent Carroll during discussions about the plan. Several of those emissaries presented yesterday a gloomy picture of their participation, saying the final lists of ideas from subcommittees excluded suggestions from Carroll representatives.

"Some of the points we made, when they were communicated from one meeting to another, the language was changed," said Roger Wolfe, a Woodbine resident who was part of a group that discussed environmental issues.

Wolfe said densely packed housing and sprawling mass transit, favored by many in the metro area, have little place in Carroll's rural and suburban landscape.

Woodbine resident Edward Primoff went a step further, saying that despite the purportedly collaborative nature of the meetings, the process began with an agenda that has little to do with what Carroll residents want or need.

This plan "is trying to take the parameters of a failed jurisdiction, Baltimore City, and place them on Carroll County," said Primoff, who served on a committee that discussed the role of government in the region.

Vision 2030 Project Manager Stoney Fraley quickly defended the process.

"This is not a process to save Baltimore City. This is a regional process," he said. Fraley told Primoff and other Carroll County residents who felt underrepresented to write letters that could be incorporated in the overall planning process.

But Primoff and Wolfe's comments raised Commissioner Donald I. Dell's hackles about regionalization.

"If our people were at the meetings, their comments should already be there, and they shouldn't have to follow up with letters," Dell said. "In the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, Carroll is always off to the side. ... What the region decides is what will be imposed on us, whether we like it or not."

For years, Carroll leaders have questioned the value of regional government, saying leaders from the city and other counties take Carroll's money but ignore its point of view. In 2000, the commissioners refused to sign a regional watershed agreement that would limit development on the valuable land around Liberty Reservoir. That refusal has hindered the county's efforts to build a water treatment plant at Piney Run Park.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier suggested yesterday that Vision 2030 would steer state transportation funding away from Carroll.

"The money will go to mass transportation instead of to our roads," she said. "The funding priorities could be set without any of our input. ... We'll be outvoted."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge's view of the plan was closest to neutral. She said Vision 2030 is at an early stage, but indicated she wouldn't vote for it if it places too much of the region's burden on Carroll.

Commissioner candidate and Finksburg community leader Neil Ridgely attended the meetings in an unofficial capacity and offered a rare positive review in a letter to the commissioners.

"Certainly much of the discussion at each of the meetings involved the role of Baltimore city and the redevelopment of its core," he wrote. "I expected this going in and continue to believe that until all the Baltimore metro area jurisdictions can work cooperatively to overcome the problems which plague the city and stem the population exodus into the counties, we will not see an end to our own problems - social or economic."

Fraley noted that the vision plan would not dictate state or federal funding, but Frazier and Primoff said it would be unrealistic to assume the plan won't affect money distribution.

The commissioners, in their role on the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, will be able to vote against Vision 2030 when it is completed next year. Then, if the plan is approved, they will be able to ignore it when making decisions about land use, transportation or other policies.

Public hearings on the plan will begin next month, with hearings scheduled for April 10 at Westminster High School and May 1 at Sykesville Middle School.

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