Beyond Bestgate:
Is This Plan Growth or Development?
by Barbara Samorajczyk

For over 30 years, Bestgate Road has been the recognized growth boundary between the planned commercial development associated with Parole and lower density land uses to its north. In a letter written in 1987, Anne Arundel's director of Planning and Zoning Thomas L. Osborne reiterated this promise to the citizens of the Severn Grove Community.

That promise has been reflected in every Anne Arundel County land use planning document since 1967. Now, these 30 years of promises and planning are threatened. The developer's application is pending before the administrative hearing officer to change approximately 30 acres from residential to commercial zoning. This site, commonly referred to as the Brilliant property, is located north of Bestgate Road and east of Industrial Drive.

Will this commercial growth bring our community prosperity or painful costs? When does growth change from being the solution to the cause of economic woes?

The answer is found by understanding the distinction between growth and development. The Rocky Mountain Institute asserts that a community always will benefit from development. But growth may create a damaging burden. Why?

A community might be compared to a human being. If a person continues to increase in size or grow after maturity, that growth is defined as cancer. Likewise, when a community continues to grow after maturity, its cancer is manifested by symptoms such as traffic congestion, environmental degradation, urbanization of farms and a deteriorating sense of community.

Development is very different than growth. After reaching physical maturity, adults can continue to develop by constant improvement. We can learn new skills, develop additional interests or gain deeper wisdom. Similarly, a community can continue to develop without getting bigger. It can enhance cultural and educational opportunities, revitalize older areas and increase diversity of business opportunities.

Growth is an increase in size while development is an increase in quality. Development enhances the value of investments, resulting in an increase in prosperity. Growth requires additional investments in infrastructure and public services that will increase costs that must be borne by everyone and may not increase value in a community as a whole.

The purpose of the Parole Plan is to promote development, not growth. Hundreds of hours of effort by citizens of this community confirmed Bestgate Road as the northern limit of commercial growth for the Parole Growth Management Area. This defines the bounds of commercial maturity. Within these limits, over 6.5 million square feet of additional office, retail and residential development are proposed by the Parole Plan.

This plan represents the epitome of sustainable development. It integrates long-term community, environmental and economic goals.

Conversely, the rezoning request is the epitome of damaging growth, resulting in expansion beyond the recognized limits of our commercial maturity.

Why is this rezoning even being considered piecemeal when Annapolis Neck is going through comprehensive rezoning as part of the Small Area process?

If we do not contain commercial growth and reinvest in areas such as the center of Parole, Clay Street and outer West Street, we will continue to consume our green areas and residential land. Rather than improving our quality of life, it will draw capital away from redevelopment and perpetuate the decline of our community's urban core. We must reinvigorate our town centers of Annapolis and Parole, not create new town centers on the suburban countryside.

NBT reader Barbara Samorajczyk writes from Annapolis.

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Volume VI Number 26
July 2-8 1998
New Bay Times

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