Civic umbrella group plans aggressive stance


If the Greater Severna Park Council has a new buzz word for 1994, it's "proactive."

The trendy word is on everyone's lips, from retiring leaders to new officers describing the council's future.

The council needs to reach out to draw the entire community into the council, says Ellen McGee-Keller, who has been nominated as the new president.

The council hopes to become active in addressing the way the county's adequate facilities ordinance is applied, says Dan Nataf, chair of the public works committee.

The council's greatest challenge is to continue to "move beyond the watchdog role to being proactive," says retiring president Pat Troy.

During Ms. Troy's three years as president, the council has become more effective at heading off unwelcome county or state projects by getting involved in the early stages of transportation and other types of planning, she said.

This new year, the umbrella group of civic associations will extend this strategy -- pre-empting trouble by acting in advance -- to other problem areas, leaders say.

One target is the council itself, says Ms. McGee-Keller, who is expected to be elected president when the council votes Jan. 11 on its new slate of officers.

Ms. McGee-Keller, an institutional portfolio manager with the First National Bank of Maryland, has served on several committees and as the council's secretary and vice president.

The council has often had to battle the perception that it exists to further the interests of only some residents. Ms. McGee-Keller wants to change that perception and any reality behind it.

"We want to make sure the group is representative," she says. "Instead of having the attitude 'Here we are, and everybody knows we're here,' I would like to see a more practical approach to help welcome people. I want people to realize how easy it is to get involved."

Another top priority for 1994 is addressing the way the adequate facilities ordinance is applied, says Ms. McGee-Keller, who now serves as chairwoman of the adequate facilities committee. The county ordinance is designed to ensure that schools, roads and other facilities are in place before new home construction is allowed. Critics say the ordinance is too often ignored, which translates to overcrowded schools, inadequate roads and overburdened police and fire departments.

The committee's latest goal has been to develop a framework to deal with problems in this area.

"It's a vexing problem," says Mr. Nataf, a statistician and a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "We hope to get a handle on growth and economic development that isn't accompanied by adequate roads or schools or fire stations."

The issue has long been a thorn in the council's side, often pitting the group -- which favors stricter enforcement of the law -- against county politicians.

"If the adequate facilities ordinance is subject to a lot of waivers, it discredits the law," says Mr. Nataf.

Perhaps the greatest single challenge facing the council is its attempt to work in long-range planning, council leaders say.

going to look forward the next 20 years to see what Severna Park will look like," says Mr. Nataf. "Where do we want employment growth and open space? What do we want to happen to Ritchie Highway and Veterans Highway? These are questions we haven't asked in a proactive way much until now."

After figuring out what role the council should take, the tough part is finding time and resources to take on the issues, says Ms. McGee-Keller.

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