Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 23, 2007

Out-of-town growth uses up our water

While I appreciate The Sun's commending the town of Mount Airy's decision to focus on water sources close to town borders and to create a green buffer at its perimeter ("Reverse field," editorial, June 14), I also encourage The Sun and its readers to recognize that the circumstances surrounding growth in Maryland are not always comparable and that a bigger issue exists in Western Maryland, especially in the Piedmont region.

Most of the towns in the Piedmont region have either reached maximum development or are close to maximizing the development that can fit within the current water allocations from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

But unfortunately, as towns are being shut down with regard to future growth, large homes on large lots are being built on the borders of these towns - using well and septic systems approved by the county governments and MDE.

Not only is this environmentally disastrous, it is also in direct conflict with Maryland's Smart Growth laws.

The Maryland Municipal League has convened a group of municipal officials to discuss this critical issue with representatives from the state Department of Planning, Department of Natural Resources and MDE in an attempt to address the disconnect between the water allocations permitted by MDE and the density requirements of Maryland's Smart Growth laws.

While the issue has yet to be resolved, municipal and state officials hope that by working together, we can identify a practical long-term solution to this regulatory conflict.

The alternative is continued construction of large homes on large lots surrounding these towns, which contributes to sprawl and environmental degradation while drawing on municipal resources without giving towns the benefit of property tax revenues to offset the cost of providing these services.

This practice will eventually choke the economic health of these population centers as it allows sprawl to continue to consume Maryland's farmlands and open spaces.

David E. Carey

Bel Air

The writer is a Bel Air town commissioner and the president of the Maryland Municipal League.

City road plan gives cars too much scope

While Towson moves forward with plans to become more vibrant and walkable ("Footloose and fancy town," June 10), Baltimore is moving in the other direction, with plans to encourage high-speed traffic to cut through Fells Point and Canton.

The city's "Southeast Area Transportation Plan," which calls for taking away parking spaces and widening intersections, is based on highway-oriented traffic models whose chief priority is the free flow of high-speed traffic - which is an inappropriate model for an urban setting.

The plan values the convenience of drivers who are trying to shave a few seconds off their commutes over the safety of pedestrians who are trying to cross our streets.

No one wants to be stuck in traffic. But turning our neighborhood streets into highways isn't a great solution.

People flock to Fells Point and Canton because they can stroll from shop to shop, dine at a sidewalk caf?, walk along the water and live close to work.

Maryland has plenty of places where the car is king and walking is difficult.

So why should we take some of Baltimore's most charming urban neighborhoods and try to superimpose suburban-style highways and traffic on them?

Mark Counselman

Baltimore

The writer is a board member of One Less Car, a statewide advocacy group for bicycling and walking.

Kaufman campaign merits more respect

I was grateful to read Gregory Kane's column on BUILD's discrimination against mayoral candidates A. Robert Kaufman and Frank M. Conaway Sr. ("Lack of an invite invites rancor," June 13).

But a couple of points need to be clarified.

First, Mr. Kane concludes that Mr. Kaufman's plan to eliminate residential property taxes and replace them with a progressive income tax and a progressive commuter tax "might lead to government officials conducting wholesale raids on the wallets of taxpayers."

However, what Mr. Kaufman and his organization, the City Wide Coalition, have been advocating for decades is that the top 1 percent of American households should be taxed at a far higher rate.

The United States has one of the least progressive income tax systems among the world's industrialized nations.

Mr. Kaufman's plan is to tax that 1 percent that owns more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined, and reduce the tax burden on the bottom 95 percent.

And while Mr. Kane mentions that Mr. Conaway announced his candidacy, he failed to note that Mr. Kaufman celebrated his 76th birthday by announcing his mayoral candidacy in front of City Hall on March 8.

The following day, The Sun ran a column by Laura Vozzella about the announcement with a photo of Mr. Kaufman holding his "24 theses" for city reform ("There he stands - he can do no other," March 9).

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