Nick Over, VP of Development at RPAI, gives a hard hat tour of development at Circle East in Towson.
Nick Over, VP of Development at RPAI, gives a hard hat tour of development at Circle East in Towson. (Cody Boteler / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Today is an exciting time to live and work in Towson. Baltimore County’s hub has seen a whirlwind of development in recent years, with numerous construction cranes dotting the skyline. From the Cinemark movie theater complex to Towson Row to the new apartments on the Towson Circle, downtown Towson has changed dramatically over the last five years. As president of the Campus Hills Community Association in Towson, I have seen these changes firsthand. This growth presents both a unique opportunity and a new set of challenges for the suburb — challenges that the county and state government must address to ensure that the new growth benefits all, and not just a select few, of central Baltimore County’s residents.

Clearly the most important challenge posed by the new growth in the region is school overcrowding. Towson High School, one of the premier public schools in Baltimore County, has 443 more students than seats available for the 2019-2020 school year. By 2028, that number will jump to 768 more students than seats. A new Towson High School must be built, and doing so requires that the Maryland General Assembly pass school construction legislation in the 2020 session.

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County Executive Johnny Olszewksi Jr. and the County Council took major steps toward greater school construction funding with their most recent budget, but the county simply does not have the resources to carry the load alone. Thankfully State House Bill No. 1 and State Senate Bill No. 1 both promise to do so, as well as providing critical funding for new Lansdowne and Dulaney high schools in Baltimore County. Additionally, the General Assembly and Governor Hogan must work to fully fund the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations on important investments in public schools, including providing much needed support for teachers, so that students in Towson and elsewhere will receive the best education possible.

There are two other challenges posed by the increased development and investment in Towson: transportation and the cost of living. As more and more businesses and residents move into Towson and the surrounding communities, congestion and traffic jams will become a new reality without additional state support for public transportation. The proposed Towson Circulator is a great start in the right direction, but without additional public transportation, many new residents and employees will struggle to commute or drive through the region. The state is also in a unique position to help leverage a regional partnership between Baltimore County and surrounding municipalities for the sake of better transportation options.

Additionally, the state must take steps to reduce the cost of living for residents of Towson who are already feeling the pressures of a growing area. As a millennial, I have experienced firsthand the difficulties of home ownership with paying down student debt and paying for health insurance. One way in which the state can support young parents in Baltimore County and throughout the state is through a truly universal pre-kindergarten program. The Kirwan Commission takes steps toward doing so, and free, voluntary, and universal pre-k will give every Maryland student a chance to gain a critical year of education, while reliving a huge financial burden on their parents.

In 2018, Baltimore County elected a forward-thinking county executive in Johnny Olszewski Jr. His bold agenda, which has gained bipartisan support from the County Council, has greatly benefited the entire County for families, students, teachers, and working people of all backgrounds. But there is only so-much that the county can do. The governor and General Assembly must work with the county to take steps to ensure that Towson and central Baltimore County remain affordable for all of its residents. Taken together, greater school construction funding, more support for public transportation and a universal pre-k program are tangible steps that the State of Maryland can take, while making it Towson an attractive community for new families to make their home.

Henry P. Callegary is a candidate for House of Delegates District 42A, president of the Baltimore County Young Democrats and president of the Campus Hills Community Association. His email is henry.callegary@gmail.com.

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