In search of common ground in 6th District

Bridging gap between city, county is key for hopefuls

Maryland Votes 2006

October 13, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Over the next five years, more than $1 billion in commercial and residential development is slated for Anne Arundel County's 6th District, an area that stretches from Highland Beach to Crownsville and includes the city, the Annapolis Neck Peninsula and Parole.

Democrat Joshua J. Cohen, a second-term city alderman, and Republican Rene Swafford, an Annapolis attorney, are vying for a chance to represent the booming district on County Council.

The winner will succeed Barbara Samorajczyk, a Democrat who during her two terms has often been at odds with County Executive Janet S. Owens and the council's Republican majority on growth policies.

With a pending $100 million upgrade at Westfield Annapolis Mall, a $400 million redevelopment of Parole Plaza and Park Place, a $300 million mixed-use project under construction in downtown Annapolis, cooperation between the city and the county is crucial, Cohen said.

"The District 6 representative has a key role in bridging the gap between the county and the city, and I'm the best candidate to do that," said Cohen, 33, of Eastport. "My approach is to find common ground, and we need that approach on the County Council."

Common ground has often been hard to find between the city and the county, with county residents clashing with the city over development, annexation and traffic, especially around Forest Drive.

Swafford, an attorney in Annapolis, asked The Sun to send its questions via e-mail. She did not respond to the questions and did not return several follow-up phone calls. According to her Web site, she supports adequate public facility legislation, an expanded buffer zone around the Chesapeake Bay and reduced carbon monoxide emissions from county power plants.

If elected, Cohen said he'd appoint a commission to consider a growth boundary for the city so that long-term development is "planned rather than piecemeal, especially around the Annapolis Neck corridor."

"We should concentrate new development in already developed areas," he said. "And we need a clear commitment to preserving rural and suburban areas to protect this area's character."

Cohen recently sponsored a City Council bill that temporarily halts new building permits for major developments until an infrastructure ordinance is in place. He called it a modest approach to development.

"Politics is all about what's possible. The moratorium as it was passed was the best that we could accomplish and that's better than nothing," he said.

"If you're one member of a legislative body, you have to compromise, and that's the best we could achieve. I'm proud of that."

As chairman of the finance committee, Cohen worked to reduce the property tax rate, despite the opposition of Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a frequent ally.

As of Sept. 1, Cohen, a probation agent, raised $34,200 and Swafford raised $23,

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