Smith unveils his BRAC proposal

Blueprint includes overhaul of U.S. 40 and job training for students

June 21, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. unveiled a plan yesterday that calls for steering new homes and businesses to sites along U.S. 40 in preparation for the expansion of regional military bases -- and the influx of jobs and residents to come with it.

The plan also recommends a look at expanding the Middle River MARC station and adding training programs to help middle and high school students to prepare to compete for jobs created by growth at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade.

But in the main, the report concludes that the county needs one thing above all: more studies.

The "action plan" -- the result of eight months of work by a Base Realignment and Closure panel -- recommended 100 steps that include studies on the county's roads, schools and sewage-treatment system.

The aim: to gauge the impact of 3,900 new jobs and 3,600 new households and determine what needs to be done to accommodate the influx.

Smith vowed to work with neighboring counties and Baltimore City to seize what he called a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"We plan to make Central Maryland the center of defense communications for the nation," said Smith, a second-term Democrat.

Subsequent studies will be carried out by county agencies, Smith said, adding that none of the projects recommended in the report has been planned. The county executive did not say how much he expected the county to spend on improving infrastructure, but he does expect aid from federal and state governments.

To oversee the county's preparation effort, Smith promoted William P. Jones, the county's point man for east-side redevelopment, as a top-level adviser. His new title is Baltimore County's BRAC coordinator, and his salary will rise from $84,581 to $95,000.

"We're well-placed with the Smart Growth the county has outlined and maintained," said Jones, 57, a Loyola College graduate who spent years as a developer before joining the county's economic development office in 2001.

Jones said one of focuses will be attracting business and homes to sites along U.S. 40, Route 43 and U.S. 1. He envisions "town-center" projects, with a blend of homes and businesses similar to the town center being built in Owings Mills, along the U.S. 40 corridor.

Jones said many of the initiatives of Smith's "action plan" will be easily achieved because they involve tasks, such as the updating of water and sewer maps, that are carried out routinely.

Many of the steps will take years, he said.

"You want to be able to assimilate [the new residents], rather than a crunch," Jones said.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

BRAC: By the numbers

By 2015, Baltimore County officials are projecting an influx of jobs and residents tied to the looming expansion of Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade:

New jobs: 3,900

New households: 3,600

Additional annual property tax revenue: $18 million

Additional annual income tax revenue: $10 million

Source: Baltimore County government

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