Route 3 work pushed

Proposed development ban in congested corridor appears unlikely


A proposed ban on development in the Route 3 corridor in Gambrills and Crofton appears unlikely, as the Anne Arundel County councilman who represents the area seeks other ways to jump-start the $700 million overhaul of the congested state highway.

On Friday, council Chairman Edward R. Reilly, state Sen. Janet Greenip and Del. Tony McConkey met with Maryland's top highway official to discuss funding alternatives to push the road work forward.

Reilly is advocating the creation of special taxing districts or levying of fees on developers as a first option. He called a moratorium "the nuclear option."

Reilly, a Crofton Republican, said he was "very encouraged" by the comments of Neil J. Pedersen, the state highway administrator, and is optimistic that continued calls for a building moratorium are motivating state officials to move the project off the drawing board.

An SHA spokeswoman said the meeting Friday would be the first in a series.

"The moratorium is always on the table," Reilly said. "[But] I'd like to pursue solutions rather than put delays in front of the process that don't accomplish anything."

At least 15 housing and commercial projects have been approved or are under way along the corridor, which links U.S. 50 to Interstate 97, but it was the more recent announcements of plans to build a Wegmans supermarket and a Wal-Mart that triggered an outcry from residents. They have united in seeking a short-term building ban until comprehensive improvements can be secured for Route 3 to handle the increased density.

Reilly said last month that he would lobby his council colleagues for a defined short-term moratorium after receiving a guarded opinion from County Attorney Linda Schuett that a limited development ban could pass legal muster.

Two council members - Republican C. Edward Middlebrooks and Democrat Pamela G. Beidle - said Friday that Reilly has not lobbied them about a moratorium. Beidle said Reilly asked her about taxing mechanisms that were used to secure infrastructure upgrades for Arundel Mills mall in Hanover and the National Business Park next to Fort Meade.

Reilly questioned the effectiveness of a moratorium, saying that even a six-month ban could prompt developer lawsuits against the county.

Residents say the Route 3 project is long overdue. Proposals have been stalled by environmental concerns and funding delays for more than two decades. In recent years, most community groups have agreed to a boulevard-style concept for the highway.

County Executive Janet S. Owens said she would consider ideas to push the project forward.

Owens and Reilly said the onus rests with the state to boost the project. Owens said she recently met with state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan to press the matter.

Until the state concludes its planning study for the project, impact fees on new development cannot be directed toward funding a comprehensive upgrade of Route 3. Rather, that money is paying for piecemeal road improvements that would probably be wiped out once the state approved the corridor overhaul.

Facing heat from voters in an election year, Reilly and others want to expedite the conclusion of the Route 3 planning study.

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