Freeze! A Sound Approach to Smart-Growth

The new proposal by Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens for a two-year moratorium on rezoning land is an idea that the county council ought to swiftly approve.

It would not affect projects already in the works, nor would it impede building in the populous areas of Brooklyn Park, Pasadena and Glen Burnie, where builders should be directing their efforts.

Two years is a reasonable time for the countywide small-area planning committees now being formed to deliberate the weighty issues of how we grow. It will be reassuring to Anne Arundel citizens that people just like them have the ear of decision-makers. For too long, we've operated under a system where the developers forking over campaign contributions get the access.

Maryland is a leader in smart-growth planning, and we need to keep it that way. But we are far from alone. We did some research and found that last November's election ballots across the country contained 240 initiatives to in some way protect land; 72 percent of them passed, triggering $7.5 billion in additional state and local spending.

What we're seeing is a bottom-up movement attracting politicians of all stripes. In New Jersey, for instance, Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman led the successful referendum to commit a portion of the state's sales tax to preserve one million acres over 10 years. That's half of the state's developable land.

Critics like to paint growth management as some sort of liberal environmental conspiracy. They're misreading the situation. The aggressive preservation efforts across the country - even in Tennessee and Alabama - spring from broader sensibilities. People have grown weary not just of strip malls but also of higher taxes to finance the roads and schools around sprawling subdivisions. They're tired of abandoning their cities, suffering suburban congestion and watching forests and farm land disappear forever.

We along the Chesapeake Bay have special incentive to protect not just greenspace but also our high quality of life. Voters had this in mind when they gave Janet Owens an overwhelming victory in November. Her two-year moratorium on rezoning is a timely response to strong public sentiments. It should pass without a handful of developers being allowed to water it down.

| Issue 6 |

Volume VII Number 6
February 11-17, 1999
New Bay Times

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