Must We Grow?
by William N. Papian
Yes, Anne Arundel County must grow. Much of its remaining undeveloped land will be developed because that land is privately owned and its owners can not be deprived of its economic use unless properly compensated; the Constitution rightly says so. However, part of the question remains open: How much must we grow?
The increase in the amount of development allowed in a given area, called "growth," is actually limited. The limits are, in a sense, arbitrary, and consist largely of a variety of zoning regulations imposed over the years by an area's governmental bodies. In Anne Arundel, those governmental bodies are the county, the state of Maryland, and the United States. The county is responsible for most of the regulations by virtue of the powers delegated by the state a long time ago.
Regulations control a multitude of general and detailed issues and specifications in residential, commercial, mining, manufacturing, agricultural, maritime and other zones in Anne Arundel County. They have been in force for many years and are fully accepted as necessary for the health and welfare, present and future, of the citizenry. Lower limits have been placed on lot sizes, upper limits placed on densities, certain sensitive areas of land have been placed off limits to development, required minimums have been placed on infrastructure and so on.
Growth can not only be slowed, but actually contained in some areas by the judicious use of regulations. Certainly, growth will sooner or later have to be contained in all of the county if the goals of the General Development Plan, the Open Space Initiative and the other laudable plans so recently approved by the county council, the executive, the state, and, above all, the citizenry, are to be realized.
Containing growth will be accompanied by some pain, as have most of the restrictive zoning measures of the past decades, but the health and welfare of all the citizens of this county depend on it. The legacy we all wish to pass on to future generations includes a healthy Chesapeake Bay with its fisheries, open land with thriving agriculture and forestry, adequate and safe drinking water, clean air and adequate infra-structure.
Zoning regulations have been updated several times over the years.
They are now being updated comprehensively by our Department of Planning and Code Enforcement under the guidance of the recently adopted General Development Plan. On page 5 of Part One of this Plan, the following statement appears:
The Plan also provides an opportunity to be more effective in managing growth and to improve the methods and types of development that occur in the County.
Page 2 of Part Two of the Plan states: The Annotated Code of Maryland, Article 25A, provides the authority for Anne Arundel County to plan and zone property.
Clearly, our county uses, and expects to use, the zoning tools available to it for growth management, that is, directing growth to some areas and containing growth in others, to a degree that is both fair and legal. Fairness is determined by the citizens and their elected officials, legality by the courts.
Now is a most propitious time to consider growth management in our county. We have the new Plan. The Planning department is in the process of revising all zoning regulations. The Small Area Planning Committees mandated by the Plan are starting their work. Comprehensive rezoning of our lands is scheduled for the near future. Citizen interest in environmental and quality-of-life issues is at an all time high.
The next couple of years must not be wasted. Join your civic associations, volunteer to work on the Small Area Planning Committees, get educated about land-use issues and keep in touch with your elected officials.
Look for more on this topic in future issues.
Retired professor Bill Papian is a civic activist and president of the Shady Side Peninsula Association.
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Volume VI Number 10
March 12-18, 1998
New Bay Times
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