City's lower peninsula communities urge secession


When Mark Boling first became pastor of the Brooklyn United Methodist Church nine years ago, one of his parishioners took him to the most scenic spot in the neighborhood -- the top floor of a tower that offered a panorama of Baltimore's skyline to the north and Anne Arundel County's suburbs to the south.

Mr. Boling said when they reached the top of the tower, his escort -- a lifelong resident of Brooklyn -- turned to the Anne Arundel side. Mr. Boling said he stood captivated by the XTC glimmering skyscrapers of the Baltimore cityscape.

"For several minutes we stood in opposite directions, then he finally turned around," said Mr. Boling. "He looked at the city and said, 'I've been there once.' "

"I told him he should try to go back again someday," Mr. Boling added, bursting out in laughter.

Since then, he said, things have changed very little. Although his parishioners live in Baltimore, their hearts belong to Anne Arundel County. They don't shop in the city, eat in its restaurants, visit its libraries or use its hospitals.

And some of the residents feel such a strong allegiance to the county that they convinced their state senator, George W. Della Jr., to introduce a bill that would turn Baltimore's lower peninsula over to Anne Arundel County. The neighborhoods affected would include Brooklyn, Fairfield, Curtis Bay and Hawkins Point.

Marie Garrett, who lives in the city a couple of blocks away from the Anne Arundel County line, is among those who refer to the downtown area to the north as "Baltimore" as if it is a world apart from her neighborhood.

"Everything I do, I do in the county," she said. "It's like Baltimore is a different world. All my friends are in the county; when we go out to eat we go to the county. There's nothing to attract us to the city."

Community leaders in those neighborhoods, located near many of the city's biggest industrial sites and smelliest landfills, said yesterday that they are fed up with serving as the city's "dumping ground" and hope the bill will shake up the administration.

The leaders plan to hold a news conference to discuss the proposed legislation at 10 a.m. today in front of City Hall.

"We have tried to work with the city, but they just don't respond to our needs," said Gloria Sipes, president of the Curtis Bay Community Association. "I think the county would respond a lot more quickly."

She added, "Maybe this bill will shake things up and get the city's attention. If it doesn't pass this year, then we'll try again next year."

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she is "totally opposed" to the bill and said a city task force, headed by the planning department, will announce a plan in May to rezone parts of South Baltimore and provide a buffer between the residential neighborhoods and the heavy industrial areas.

But that may not be enough to convince residents like Susan Jacobs, born and raised in Brooklyn, that the city administration has not forgotten her community of shingled homes with manicured lawns. Over the last decade she has watched the parks, libraries and schools in her neighborhood decline.

Meanwhile, even though she pays higher taxes and car insurance than her neighbors two blocks away in Anne Arundel County, she says they enjoy better services.

"Their parks are beautiful. My kids play baseball and soccer over there because there's glass all over the city park," said Mrs. Jacobs.

Mr. Della said the proposed bill to move South Baltimore into Anne Arundel County was sent to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, but no date had been set for a public hearing.

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