Balto. County hopefuls differ on growth

Executive candidate Smith supports new housing

Needed to draw business, he says

GOP's Riley would focus on revitalizing older areas

Election 2002

October 28, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

When it comes to growth and development, the two candidates for Baltimore County executive are about as different as Frank Sinatra and Eminem.

James T. Smith Jr., a Democrat, and Douglas B. Riley, a Republican, have made the same promises: improving quality of life for residents and increasing the county's tax base.

But their differences over development suggest opposing viewpoints.

While Smith would make revitalizing older neighborhoods part of his overall plan for governing, Riley would concentrate all the powers of the county executive on such efforts.

"We've got to say we're not going to grow anymore," Riley said. "Instead, we're going to improve the quality of life" with better roads, schools, parks and the like.

Smith, however, accused Riley of mistakenly trying to stop planned growth.

"Most of the development has already been approved," Smith said. "Besides that, it will scare businesses away" - businesses whose help, Smith said, is crucial to revitalizing older communities.

In addition to pledging to focus on older neighborhoods, Riley would temporarily stop new housing construction in Owings Mills and White Marsh, which are the county's designated growth areas.

"We don't build anymore new subdivisions until we're ready to provide the adequate facilities necessary to support the population," Riley said. "Instead, we're going to spend on quality of life in the older neighborhoods."

To improve "quality of life," Riley, a former County Council member, pledged to clean up parks and older communities, to tackle traffic congestion and to target drug-related crime.

Riley said he was also concerned about keeping development out of the rural parts of the county.

Smith, who recites a record as county councilman of conserving farmland, preserving a historic building and regulating development, said he sees the construction of new housing as a sort of constitutional necessity for any county's continued well-being, and he would not turn his back on it.

He would promote the revitalization of communities between the Baltimore City line and the Baltimore Beltway by using grants, low-interest loans and other measures.

But at the same time, Smith said, the county must fulfill its obligation to provide roads, libraries and other promised services to growth areas .

The candidates differ slightly on how best to expand the county's job base.

As county executive, Riley said he would focus most of his energies on helping businesses and agricultural concerns already in the county to grow.

Like Riley, Smith also would send county officials to local businesses to promote expansion.

"But the fact that I want to do that doesn't mean I'm going to close down initiatives to attract new businesses," he said. "Why would I want to do that? They're not mutually exclusive."

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