August 27, 2006

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: --An Annapolis developer has proposed building at least 1,600 homes on a major undeveloped tract near Fort Meade, but some county officials and neighborhood residents worry about the project's impact on crowded roads and schools.

Developer John C. Stamato envisions a high-density enclave of urban-style living - homes, shops, restaurants and offices - on about 300 acres next to the Patuxent Research Refuge and within a mile of the Army post.

Stamato wants the county to create residential and commercial districts on the industrially zoned land along Route 198. He hopes to tap into the demand for housing generated by the base realignment and closure process, or BRAC, that is to bring thousands of workers to the post. A proposal would also reportedly set aside 10 percent of the residences for work force housing.

But County Executive Janet S. Owens, who steps down this year, said she has misgivings about eliminating such a large tract of industrially zoned land, some of the last of its kind in western Anne Arundel. With the fall elections near, she said, the next county executive and council would be better positioned to consider such legislation.

Should the County Council rezone about 300 acres near Fort Meade to allow 1,600 homes, as well as offices, shops and restaurants? Or should action be delayed until after the fall elections?

Don't rezone tract for development

It would be irresponsible for Councilman Bill Burlison to introduce a bill to rezone 300 acres of industrially zoned land in West County to mixed use producing 1,600 homes, plus restaurants and shops. It would be malfeasance for other members of the County Council to pass the special interest legislation, and it would be unconscionable for County Executive Janet Owens to sign it into law.

The Small Area Plan for West County has been adopted. The BRAC committee has only just begun its work. Already saddled with a $1.5 billion school repair backlog, failing infrastructure and deteriorating water quality, the citizens of Anne Arundel County deserve better from their government.

A new elementary school, fire station and a police station may be needed in West County, but this proposed development does not guarantee such amenities.

We can't stop growth, nor would we want to, but citizens of this county have the power to vote and are not required to sacrifice their quality of life - including their children's education - to the gods of commerce.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

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