Development planning for county set to kick off


The year-long tug of war of mapping the growth of Anne Arundel County for the next 25 years begins today.

A 33-member committee, working with county planners and elected officials to decide how much development should be allowed, where parks should be located and whether some areas should be put off-limits to developers, is to hold its first public meeting at 4 p.m. in Annapolis.

The current plan was revised about five years ago. By state law all jurisdictions must have by 1997 new land use plans that include provisions for economic growth, stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay and development directed toward suitable areas.

One force setting this plan off from previous ones is the county's tax cap, which restricts property tax increases to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

As the amount of money available for public services shrinks, the committee will have to examine concentrating new development in areas where sewer lines, public transportation and other services are available, explained Richard Josephson, chief of long-range planning for the county land use office.

"What we need to be doing is taking a look at the areas and saying, 'Where do they fit in with other constraints?' " he said. "We should see if we need to create a boundary line where there is a clear distinction between where you intend development to occur or not occur."

Diverse constituencies on the committee include the business and environmental communities, residential and rural groups, each with its own concerns.

The Severn River Commission, which has a watershed plan, believes that county residents need better access to the water and that much of the undeveloped area within the watershed ought to be preserved. South County residents have opposed suburban encroachment, but need orderly business development, said committee member Davis Craven of West River.

"I hope we can get to some consensus without getting too rowdy," said committee member Geoffrey L. Johnson, president of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.

He said he would like to see a corridor of industrial development linked to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and flexible land-use plans that can accommodate mixed-use development and redevelopment of older areas.

"In the West County area, we are beginning to have a large residential population -- but to get services, people have to drive out of their way, maybe five or six miles," he said.

The plan should provide for industries that barely existed a decade ago, such as paper and plastics recyclers, said Michael Lofton, executive vice president of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

Committee members will examine innovative ways to preserve open space, such as by granting developers extra density in one location in exchange for leaving other areas for parks.

A tentative schedule calls for forums held throughout the county starting next month. Planners hope to have a proposal by the spring of 1996 to take to public hearings. The County Council would adopt a new plan in July 1996. Today's meeting is at 2666 Riva Road.

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