Campaigns occupied by growth, planning

$1 billion in development on the way

District 6

Maryland Votes 2006

August 30, 2006|By nia-malika henderson | nia-malika henderson,sun reporter

The two city council members — Two Annapolis city council members and a political newomer from outside the city are vying in the Democratic primary for the open County Council seat in District 6, a fast-growing area where the pace of development is a major issue.

The two city council members - Classie Gillis Hoyle of Ward 3 and Joshua J. Cohen of Ward 8 - were each re-elected to second terms last fall. Hoyle, 70, a retired educational administrator, and Cohen, a 33-year-old probation agent, have each stressed their council accomplishments, though they differ on how to manage new development.

Philip Dales, a 58-year-old attorney from the Annapolis Roads community, said he entered the race because there were no candidates from outside the city limits. Many residents of Annapolis Roads, located southeast of the Forest Road corridor, are concerned about city efforts to annex and further develop the traffic-clogged area.

The winner of the Sept. 12 primary will face Republican Rene Swafford, an Annapolis attorney.

The three are seeking to represent a district that is slated for more than $1 billion in commercial and residential development over the next five years.

Major projects that are approved or are under way include a $400 million redevelopment of the Parole Plaza site into a mix of condominiums, stores and offices; Park Place, a $300 million mixed-use project going up near downtown; and a $100 expansion of Westfield Annapolis shopping mall.

The eastern Anne Arundel district stretches north from the city and Annapolis Neck to the Parole and Crownsville communities along Generals Highway.

The winner will succeed Barbara Samorajczyk, a Democrat who has clashed with County Executive Janet S. Owens and the council's Republican majority on growth policies and other issues.

Cohen, who represents Eastport, has positioned himself for a council bid in recent months by promoting tax-relief and slow-growth measures.

Cohen counts among his accomplishments a recent freeze on new development permits until the city adopts an adequate public facilities ordinance. Hoyle called the measure, approved in July, "nothing but a Band-Aid." She and two other council members voted against it.

Cohen acknowledged that the moratorium was a modest and symbolic step, adding, "The alternative is the status quo and a piecemeal approach to annexation and expansion of city boundaries."

For Hoyle, traffic trumps development when it comes to growth management. Hoyle rejected the "pro-development" label, but she said that "stopping growth is not the best decision right now."

"It's not growth that we need to be concerned with, it's the traffic. If we can control traffic, then everything else will fall into place with growth,"

Among her major achievements, she said, is helping to establish a policy under which developers set aside "work force housing" at new projects. She said she has also worked with developers of the Parole Town Center on plans for a community center.

Hoyle said she believes the county could better manage traffic by researching patterns, adjusting the timing of lights and possibly affixing sensors to roadways. She said quarterly meetings between city and council officials would ensure cooperation.

Dales said he cut his teeth politically beginning in 1998 as chairman of the Annapolis Neck Small Area planning committee.

"The consequences of annexation and influx of building has made the quality of life, traffic and growth a major concern of people on the Annapolis Neck," he said. "I would like to see the small-area plan implemented and rezoning accomplished."

Recommendations include working with the city to establish mutually agreeable boundaries, completing a regional transportation study, and developing a framework that mandates county and city cooperation. Dales said Cohen and Hoyle have been party to annexation of county land into the city "which doesn't comport with the goals and vision of the small area plan."

On the education front, Cohen supports funding a three-year teacher salary increase and efforts to turn Wiley H. Bates Middle School into a performing arts school. Hoyle stressed partnerships with the private sector and a more competitive curriculum that she said would attract private school students back to public schools. As council members, Hoyle and Cohen each backed a resolution that called for expanding the International Baccalaureate program to Annapolis Middle School.

Hoyle said her background as an educator - she holds a doctorate in science education from the University of Iowa - led her to seek the county seat.

"I know what it means to be a teacher, I've been on the firing line," said Hoyle, whose district includes the Forest Road and upper West Street corridors. "We could be the No. 1 system in the state. If we need more money, I'll ask for it."

For his part, Dales said having a robust system with private, charter and public schools will ensure that parents and students have choices.

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