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1st District councilman prepares for second term

1st District councilman prepares for second term
First District Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk, shown during a special Veterans Day event at Catonsville Commons, will begin his second term representing the Arbutus, Catonsville and Lansdowne areas on Dec. 1. (Staff photo by Lauren Loricchio)

As 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk prepares for a second four-year term representing Arbutus, Catonsville and Lansdowne, he said he plans to do more for those in the communities he serves.

"A lot of my priorities are dealing with economic revitalization," said Quirk, who will be sworn into office Monday, Dec. 1.

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"District 1 is one big organism and we want to make sure all parts do well," Quirk said. "We rise and fall collectively together."

Developments in Catonsville often face strong resistance from a community concerned how new developments will impact roads, schools and property values.

"I think I've been very independent when it comes to land use decisions," Quirk said. "Working with my planning board [appointee] Eric Lamb, we've protected over 200 acres off Gun Road by moving the URDL [Urban Rural Demarcation Line] inward."

He's also resisted pressure from developers, he said.

"Developers have a voice, just like constituents, but voters have a much louder voice because they're the ones that elect me," Quirk said.

During an October candidates' forum during the recent campaign, his Republican opponent Al Nalley, a Catonsville salesman and former business owner, accused Quirk, also a Catonsville resident, of ignoring Baltimore Highlands, Lansdowne and Riverview,

Quirk called the comments, "political mistruth."

"Anywhere you look in Lansdowne, Baltimore Highlands or Riverview, you see a lot of road resurfacing and investment," Quirk said.

Ron Whitehead, former president of the Riverview and Ryerson Circle Community Association for 12 years, said Quirk, "has definitely taken care of the area."

"All you have to do is walk by [Riverview Elementary School] to Hollins Ferry Road," Whitehead said. "And look at the Hollins Station development."

Whitehead referred to an Enterprise Homes development of 48 lease-to-own townhouses, is the first new development the community has seen in a long time.

Ernie Bailey, president of the Lansdowne Improvement Association, said Quirk has paid more attention to the communities in the area than those previously.

"We always felt like we never got much in the lower end of the district — Lansdowne, Riverview and Baltimore-Highlands — more attention was paid to Catonsville and Arbutus," Bailey said. "Since Tom's been councilman, he's been looking out for the lower part of the district."

His plans for improving the area's economy include the revitalization of Security Square Mall and the Winters Lane community in Catonsville, as well as the Arbutus and Lansdowne business areas and the Frederick Road business corridor, he said.

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Looking forward at the next four years, Quirk said creating more sustainable communities where people can live, shop, work and play, will be a priority.

"It makes no sense to me to have to sit in the Beltway for two hours to get to work," Quirk said.

He wants to make the area more walkable and bikeable, which includes adding more traffic calming and sidewalks, especially around schools.

"We need to revisit our policy on sidewalks," Quirk said. "We need the community to embrace more walkability and safety for our kids walking to school."

Quirk said he's also supported nonprofit Catonsville Rails to Trails, a group with the mission to, "unite individuals, businesses and organizations in the community around the common theme of promoting healthy living through hiking/biking trail enhancements in the greater Catonsville area," according to the organization's website.

"It's a huge help having an advocate for walking, hiking and biking working for the county," said Maureen Sweeney-Smith, a spokeswoman for Catonsville Rails to Trails. "He not only advocates for it, but he practices it too, walking and biking all over."

Quirk said there are a number of issues loom on the horizon, including what to do with the current Catonsville Elementary School building at 615 Frederick Road that will become vacant when the school moves to the site of the current Bloomsbury Community Center at 106 Bloomsbury Ave.

"That's major issue and I want to work with [County Executive Kevin Kamenetz] to make sure we get community input," Quirk said.

If a 21.9 acre parcel of land on the Spring Grove Hospital campus is declared surplus by the state's Board of Public Works, Quirk will take part in deciding what to do with the land, which has been eyed by Catonsville developer Steve Whalen.

He listed his priorities for the site as: ball fields and open space, an expansion of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County research park and mixed-use development.

The way the state deficit affects local government is a concern for Quirk, who serves as chairman of the County Council's Spending Affordability Committee.

"Hopefully, Gov.-elect Hogan realizes local government is critical," Quirk said.

In his first four years in office, Quirk said he learned that, "Change is always difficult for some and there is a natural resistance to change, no matter how easy or how much it makes sense."

"If you make the right decisions over the long term, the vast majority of people will appreciate it and understand it," he said.

"It would be easy in this office to do nothing — you would upset nobody," he said. "But I...ran for this office to make positive change."

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