Speakout

March 26, 2006

ISSUE: -- There is a growing nightlife buzz on Main Street in Bel Air, with more pubs and restaurants doing business than in recent years and another set to open this spring.

And it's not just bars and restaurants - there is a gourmet food store, a coffee shop with local art on the walls and even a bike shop.

As the number of attractions that pull visitors downtown has grown, so has the workload for the Bel Air Police Department.

So while the downtown establishments add to the character of the community - and to the economy - local officials say they must be on guard against the possible effects.

"It's good to see a little nightlife in Bel Air as long as we don't get too crazy with it," Bel Air Mayor Terrence O. Hanley said. "This is still a small, good-old-boy town and some people have concerns. They don't want to see another Fells Point or that type of thing. It's a delicate balance."

We asked what you thought of the growing number of nightlife and shopping options on Main Street in Bel Air and the effect they have on the community.

Bel Air may become a bit like Baltimore

"You can't have your cake and eat it too."

I've heard this saying, and lived by it, my entire life. The good people of Bel Air should be wary of wanting more of these types of establishments so close to home. Sure, they're fun. But they also bring with them bad (meaning drunken) behavior, drugs, and crime.

Being born and raised in Baltimore City, I've seen first hand what happens when these businesses invade a quiet and peaceful neighborhood. That's why I moved my family to Harford County years ago. Less crime, safer streets, a quieter way of life. If we're not careful, we'll have a bit more of Baltimore in Bel Air than we wanted.

Our politicians have already proven an inability to intelligently plan the growth of our county. They're blinded by their own agendas and the overwhelming desire to build up the tax base regardless of the consequences. If we leave it up to them, we all might as well live in Baltimore as Bel Air. There won't be any difference. I would propose putting these types of questions up for referendum, but I know that it won't happen because it would be counter to the county council's plans.

Finally, your article pointed out that people were coming from outside the immediate area (Whiteford, for example) to party in Bel Air. I would submit that when the bars close they go back to their quiet little burgs, a little further removed from main street Bel Air, their way of life preserved. Perhaps they'd like these businesses to come to their town and set up shop? Not likely.

We came here to get away from what Baltimore has become. By bringing it here, bit by bit, the way of life we wanted goes away. Truly, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

Larry Robison Forest Hill

We want your opinions

ISSUE:

A topic of discussion among elected officials in Harford County lately has been whether to resume campaign fundraising after County Executive David R. Craig's veto of the comprehensive rezoning legislation. Several months ago, Craig declared he would not accept donations until the completion of the rezoning process. The County Council followed suit, approving a resolution to the same effect.

Though rezoning has run its course, the process is in limbo after the veto, as officials work to figure out how to proceed.

"To make it simple, most of us feel we went through a comprehensive rezoning process that's been completed," said Craig, a Republican who held a $500-a-ticket fundraiser this month. "We're at the point of starting a new one, not an addition to the old one."

Others aren't so sure. Council President Robert S. Wagner, who, like Craig, is up for re-election, said members might want to consider upholding the initial vow and be careful about who they accept contributions from.

"Without something imposed, if I were a council member, I'd be a little leery of accepting money from someone who may have a [rezoning] request in, especially some of the ones up for the possibility of approval," said Wagner, a Republican.

YOUR VIEW:

Should elected county officials receive campaign contributions before the uncertainty surrounding the comprehensive rezoning process is resolved? Tell us what you think. Send e-mail responses by Thursday to harford.speakout@baltsun.com. A selection of responses will be published next Sunday. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and telephone number. Addresses and phone numbers will not be published.

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