Growth plan may benefit executive Glendening wants development in more urban areas; Glen Burnie may gain; Gary had promised revitalization for North County


Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to stop costly suburban creep may prove a political boon to his frequent critic running Anne Arundel County.

A first-blush look at the Democratic governor's Smart Growth plan, which he will present to the General Assembly next month, reveals an unintended consequence: The measure would almost certainly help Anne Arundel's Republican executive, John G. Gary, keep vital campaign promises to urban North County.

By steering state aid and business loans toward aging urban areas, such as the county executive's much-touted Glen Burnie Town Center project to help the dilapidated business district, Glendening's plan would help Gary calm what he has described as Anne Arundel's "civil war" pitting South County haves against North County have-nots.

"It looks like I'm going to get some state help," Gary said last week. "This is a plus for me. What they pretty much have done is adopt what we've already identified as important growth management policy."

During his successful 1994 election, Gary promised North County voters an assortment of municipal amenities as a reward for accommodating such unappealing civic necessities as the new Glen Burnie Detention Center, which will open next year on Ordnance Road. Ice rinks, sports arenas, public swimming pools, a community college hub -- all have been proposed for the area.

Gary has pitched his $2.2 million plan to revitalize Glen Burnie, the pre-mall commercial heart of North County, to business groups and legislators in recent weeks.

"What would make a person go to Glen Burnie?" Gary asked during a speech to Anne Arundel Trade Council. "I mean, unless you are going to buy an automobile."

But Gary never expected money from Glendening, whom he has criticized for financing two football stadiums, leaving behind a bloated pension system in Prince George's County and settling a legal dispute with Baltimore schools for $254 million without consulting other jurisdictions.

"If not money falling from the sky, at least it shows that the state and county are thinking along the same lines," said Diane Hutchins, Gary's liaison to the General Assembly. "Having served on a budget committee, the county executive understands there's no such thing as found money."

Few fiscal details have been set out yet, but state aid for Anne Arundel could run into millions of dollars. The money could help pay not only for urban renewal but also to restore abandoned industrial sites known as "brownfields" along Odenton rail lines, in Brooklyn Park, and near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"Their political philosophies parallel when it comes to growth," said Del. Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat. "It's not necessarily an original plan."

Development plan

The philosophical underpinnings of Glendening's legislation could have been lifted from a draft of Anne Arundel's revised General Development Plan. The growth master plan, last updated 10 years ago, will be presented to the County Council for consideration in February.

Two development goals

The thrust of Glendening's proposal is twofold: direct future residential development to areas with roads and utilities; and spend public funds renovating decrepit commercial centers rather than subsidizing new ones.

The governor would use state money to encourage urban development and "clustered" residential building -- more than 3.5 homes per acre -- while discouraging sprawling housing tracts by withholding new school money. The state gave Anne Arundel $129.8 million for Board of Education operations and $9.6 million for school construction this year.

Anne Arundel's draft development plan charting growth in the 416-square-mile county is guided by those same principles, which have dictated local development since the late 1980s. That could mean an infusion of state money for Anne Arundel's three growth management areas -- the Parole district in Annapolis, Odenton Town Center and Glen Burnie. Gary planned to accomplish those revitalization projects on his own.

"It's an unexpected bonus, assuming it pans out the way we think it should," said Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman.

Since 1989, 90 percent of new county homes have been built in areas that have sewer systems or where they are planned. Half the county's new residential development since 1991 has come in West County, mainly around the Odenton growth-management area.

Basic points

"You are seeing a point in time where land-use planners are coming back to some very basic, consistent points," said Councilman John J. Klocko, a Crofton Republican who represents the county's only rural district.

Anne Arundel is positioned to benefit from Glendening's plan largely because it is not growing rapidly, at least compared to other Baltimore-area counties.

From 1970 to 1995, Anne Arundel's population grew 50 percent to 459,000. But over the next 25 years, according to county demographers, the population is projected to grow 15.6 percent. Most of that will be the result of migration from Prince George's County as Anne Arundel takes on an increasingly Washington orientation. School enrollment is expected to remain steady or decline slightly.

"Fifteen years ago we were like the Howards, Carrolls and Harfords," Busch said. "Not anymore."

Works in progress

But Gary is still cautious. Maps that the governor's staff passed out last week to Gary and council members are works in progress. And Anne Arundel officials have not seen even a draft of the bill.

Gary, who along with members of Anne Arundel's General Assembly delegation met with the governor earlier this month, has described Glendening "as very sincere on this." While hoping his on-the-record confidence is not misplaced, Gary is hedging until he sees a bill. Legislators from rural and fast-growing counties are pledging to fight the measure in the General Assembly.

"The devil," Gary told Anne Arundel legislators, "will be in the details."

Glen Burnie, which comprises a volatile electoral bloc of blue-collar Reagan Democrats coveted by countywide politicians, is included in early drafts of the map outlining the governor's slow-growth plan. That would make the urban area, where Gary attended high school, eligible for state aid.

Parole omitted

But Parole is not in the draft. Although the incentive plan to revitalize the aging Annapolis shopping district seems to fit Glendening's notion of urban renovation, Anne Arundel officials say state planners do not intend to make Parole a priority under the Smart Growth plan.

That would push Anne Arundel back to square one in trying to secure as much as $10 million from the State Highway Administration for road improvements in the area. "We thought Parole would be a perfect fit," said Betty Dixon, a county spokeswoman.

Early praise

Glendening's plan, which is receiving early praise from county environmentalists, could also force Gary to choose between some of its central tenets and the interests of generous campaign donors and political friends.

The governor's initiative is not binding. Gary and his counterparts around Maryland are expected to adhere to concepts that bring their jurisdictions money, while ignoring other proposals that conflict with their own plans.

As Klocko said, "The governor is walking a tightrope between state zoning and local control."

For one, Glendening's plan is not expected to condone South County growth near Wayson's Corner, a bustling commercial hub comprising restaurants, mobile home parks, gas stations and a bingo parlor along Route 4. Much of the property is owned by the Wayson family, represented in the General Assembly and the Arundel Center by Edward O. Wayson Jr.

The Waysons have long been among Gary's chief political patrons. Wayson interests have given $1,500 to Gary's 1998 re-election campaign. A lobbyist registered with the county, Edward Wayson has said his family hopes to continue developing South County around Wayson's Corner, including a shopping district in the area.

But the area does not have a complete sewer system, one of the Smart Growth criteria required for state help under the governor's plan.

"I think his ideas make sense," Gary said of Wayson's plans.

Wayson's Corner could grow through a new growth-management technique called "transferable development rights." The program, proposed in both the governor's plan and the county's draft GDP, would allow landowners to transfer the option to build on property not slated for development to other parts of the county where building would be allowed.

Development rights, which are needed to build on any property, cost an average of $3,500 an acre. But developers fear the proposal may add another regulatory hoop, and the program may fall out of the governor's plan by the time it clears the General Assembly.

"That is one of the most controversial components, and I'm sure it will be on the slow track," said Klocko, whose district includes Wayson's Corner.

Dorchester project

Gary has also endorsed the Dorchester project, which for the first time would have Anne Arundel issue bonds to pay for millions of dollars in infrastructure for a private residential development.

The bonds, which in Dorchester's case could exceed $15 million, would be paid off over 30 years by residents of a 1,600-home development near BWI.

Gary has called it a way to reduce the initial cost of homes, making them affordable for Anne Arundel residents at no charge to county government.

The Dorchester project, proposed by the Capitol Heights-based Driggs Corp., was represented by lobbyist Robert R. Neall before he was nominated and confirmed as state senator this month. Neall, a Republican, is one of Gary's closest friends and political allies.

But the development would require water and sewer systems and could require new schools, which the governor's plan would likely not pay for if it resulted from residential building. Gary is expected to propose a bill to fund Dorchester's roads and sewers next year.

"If we have sensible, flexible zoning, we are going to be able to best use our land in this county," Gary said. "It will take common sense."

Pub Date: 12/29/96

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad