Harford presents plan for BRAC impact


January 30, 2007|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Reporter

Harford County officials unveiled yesterday an "action plan" detailing land-use planning, transportation upgrades and dozens of other steps needed to prepare for the growth surge expected as Aberdeen Proving Ground gains thousands of jobs from the nationwide military base realignment.

"The snowball's rolling downhill, and we're going to continue to keep pace," said J. Thomas Sadowski, chairman of the county's base realignment planning advisory commission. He noted that some of the 8,200 defense positions relocating to the proving ground are expected to begin arriving next year, while some supporting contract workers already have started moving.

The plan, prepared over the past year with the help of a $1.7 million federal grant, now goes to County Executive David R. Craig, who appointed the commission. It will get a public airing at a town hall meeting April 18.

The commission's plan comes a few days after the release of a cautionary report from the state Planning Department, which warned that without prompt government action the base realignment could contribute to suburban sprawl, worsen traffic congestion and strain water supplies and sewage treatment systems. More than 25,000 households are expected to settle in Maryland, with Harford likely to get more than 6,500 of them - the biggest share in the state.

James C. Richardson, Harford's economic development director, said county officials were aware of the state report and planned to address the concerns it raised. The county's two most critical needs, he said, are to strengthen zoning to handle the residential and commercial development accompanying the influx of people, and to improve highways and mass transit serving the base.

"It really comes down to land use and transportation," Richardson said. "Everything else follows."

The county's plan does not provide any cost estimates for any of the projects or tasks it recommends. "It's going to take money to do all this," Richardson acknowledged.

He said county officials expect to present the state soon with a list of specific transportation projects for which they hope to receive state and federal funding.

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