County officials say they're ready for BRAC

The Baltimore Sun

Showing off newly developed office parks and housing in the Middle River area yesterday, Baltimore County officials declared the region's most populous jurisdiction poised to accommodate its share of the jobs and households expected to pour into Maryland in the next four years from the national military base realignment.

"We're getting ready," County Executive James T. Smith Jr. told Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown as Brown and members of the O'Malley administration's base-realignment planning "subcabinet" convened in a recently constructed business park on White Marsh Boulevard.

Smith said the base realignment, which is expected to add up to 60,000 jobs and 28,000 households statewide, "brings a lot of opportunity to Maryland."

State planners project that Baltimore County might see an increase of 3,900 jobs related to base realignment and 3,600 households. Though the southwestern corner of the county may experience some growth related to Fort Meade in neighboring Anne Arundel, county officials say they expect more jobs and households to settle on the eastern side of the county -- partly because of its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, but also because of the redevelopment efforts under way there.

Smith promoted his county administration's "Renaissance" initiative, which has replaced rundown housing originally built to accommodate aircraft factory workers in World War II with a mix of new single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

The briefing for the subcabinet took place at the Baltimore Crossroads complex, part of 1,000 acres of land that have been zoned for office and industrial parks along a recently finished stretch of White Marsh Boulevard just east of Interstate 95.

The county has approved more than 13,000 new housing units, with another 3,400 in the pipeline seeking the go-ahead, officials said. About one-third of those are in eastern Baltimore County, within a 20-minute drive of the proving ground.

But while promoting the county's ability to handle the growth -- in contrast with uncertainties about the adequacy of water and sewage treatment in neighboring Harford and Cecil -- Baltimore County officials pressed for state aid to upgrade the Middle River commuter rail station and to beautify Pulaski Highway, which links the redevelopment area with Aberdeen Proving Ground to the northeast.

"It's a pretty dreary road now," David S. Iannucci, the county's economic development director, said as the bus cruised past auto repair shops, aging motels, fast-food outlets, mini-warehouses and construction yards.

Iannucci said the county has yet to tally the cost of the transportation projects it sees as priorities, including revitalization of U.S. 1 and Southwest Boulevard and the Halethorpe MARC commuter rail station to accommodate Meade-related growth. Officials are seeking federal grants to firm up costs for those projects, and to identify educational and workforce needs.

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