Growth will be a team effort

Annapolis, county to collaborate on BRAC issues

January 31, 2007|By Dan Lamothe | Dan Lamothe,Special to The Sun

The military base realignment that will bring thousands of jobs to Fort Meade has not only spawned countless discussions on traffic, schools and housing, but it has also had an unlikely secondary effect: repairing the fractured relationship between the Anne Arundel and Annapolis governments.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has agreed to expand a new panel focused on growth to include county representatives, ending decades of virtually no collaboration on growth and land-use issues.

Moyer said she welcomed the request from recently elected County Councilman Josh Cohen, a former alderman from her home district of Eastport, to include county appointees on her panel.

Despite being the most concentrated population area in the county, Annapolis rarely was included in countywide decision-making in the past, she maintains.

"The city has never said, `Don't join us,'" Moyer said. "This is a first step in looking at infrastructure issues that are shared by both of us, and it's healthy."

Cohen said the difficult relationship goes back to at least 1983, the last time a combined county-city panel addressed planning issues. The panel eventually disbanded without making any recommendations, he said.

"In the absence of a big-picture vision, we've had the tail wagging the dog," Cohen said. "With a plan in place, there will be some predictability to the future."

A shared vision for the future becomes more important now, with the planned expansion of Fort Meade as a part of the federal BRAC program expected to result in at least 20,000 new jobs in the county.

Moyer has had concerns about how that growth would affect Annapolis and its 35,000 residents. She recently appointed a task force dedicated to researching long-standing growth issues like improving infrastructure and education for the city.

But before it met for the first time this month, Cohen suggested expanding it to have a broader scope and include the county. Cohen and County Executive John R. Leopold then each agreed to appoint three members to Moyer's existing group of about eight people.

Leopold, who was sworn in as county executive last month, said he would like to develop a spirit of regionalism in the county, particularly when it comes to growth-related issues.

Nothing good happens without cooperation and collaboration," he said. "Growth-related issues have a better chance of being resolved this way."

He, Cohen and Moyer all have different priorities for the panel.

Leopold wants to keep the entire region in mind, urging a faster pace of construction for the expanded infrastructure needed to accommodate BRAC.

Moyer would like to see potential upgrades to the Annapolis Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is run by the county, and the development of "growth boundaries," which would assess where and if Annapolis should annex land in the future.

Cohen is interested in a long-term growth plan for the county and city, considering everything from water and sewer capacity to transportation to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The task force has met twice, with several appointees for the county appearing at the second meeting. No chairman has been elected yet, and another meeting is expected to take place next month.

Dan Nataf, director of Anne Arundel Community College's Center for the Study of Local Issues, said there has always been a "semicompetitive" relationship between the city and the county. He sees the new task force as a possible positive first step to making improvements.

"It helps bridge the perceptions of those whose focus is the city and those whose focus is the county," Nataf said.

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