Voters can keep sprawl from Carroll
Recently, municipalities throughout the county came together to successfully defend their Master Plans from injudicious finger-pointing by a duo of county commissioners. The outcome of these meetings resolutely placed the county's growth and infrastructure problems back at the commissioners' door, appropriately so. Town stewards, some in hindsight, have fittingly protected themselves against unrestrained growth with internal controls allowing basic services to catch up within their town's borders.
This is grand for them; meanwhile, major areas in the county are still not adequately represented or heard.
Eldersburg, the population core of Carroll County, is notably absent from the many discussions regarding growth and its solutions. In this representative vacuum, South Carroll continues to expand exponentially with absolute disregard for plan, scope and function, depriving all of us the quality of life we have every right to expect and enjoy.
Most of us are all too familiar with ills of urban sprawl: endless driving and frequent traffic jams, aggravated pollution, fragmented communities and degraded rural and natural areas. And while these effects are plainly evident, sprawl also carries a large hidden price tag: It places fiscal burdens on towns, including Eldersburg, to extend services and infrastructure to outlying areas, even as their downtowns are drained of economic vitality.
Accelerating urban sprawl has often been viewed as a healthy sign of the vitality of a regional economy. However, such scattered growth, driven largely by population growth and land speculators, is not well-planned and raises concerns over the degradation of our environmental and ecological health.
The battle against sprawl is not a battle against economic growth -- it's a fight for growth that's done right to bolster a community's economy and overall quality of life. It happens in real-world communities and towns all over the nation. All it takes is a commitment to figure out what our community values in its physical environment, where we would like to go, and what development plans would reflect these values.
At its root, planned growth is about process -- we will need to wrestle with many issues related to balancing development with enhancing quality of life: Where should growth occur? How should it take place? Which places should be off-limits, and how should they be preserved? Above all, what does the future look like?
Rather than enumerate the many obvious issues facing our part of the world, just picture the worst of Prince George's County and place it here. This is the new future, a legacy left by transient and greedy land speculators that tarnish and scar the landscape for corporate and personal gain.
The gamut in its final stage -- and we are in that stage -- is a study in the melding of industry and government that has literally strip-mined communities nationwide leaving a land mass raped of character. This election cycle is the last chance for deliverance from a future landscape devoid of design, structure and focus.
Voters must decide which candidates possess the attributes that best contribute to this community with personal accountability and character. It cannot be stressed enough, the future of Carroll is at stake; it behooves all of us to become acutely aware of candidate positions, history and alliances. The primary race is a great opportunity to weed out the extremes within a party including incumbents; Carroll's future is in crisis, the salvation is in educated and informed choices.
Do nothing and unwittingly contribute to our overall decline; the responsibility will be indisputably at your door.
Marcel J. van Rossum