23 October 2007

The People of Maryland are at odds with the CA Board Chair

Two stories in last week’s Baltimore Sun demonstrate how out of touch CA Board Chairwoman Barbara Russell is with residents in the State of Maryland. To be fair, Chair Russell’s heart is in the right place.

In an October 14, 2007 article published in the Baltimore Sun (Village says it's tired of subsidized housing) Barbara Russell is quoted as follows:

Russell is advocating what until now has been political heresy in Howard: allowing public water and sewer lines west of the current boundary to permit more townhouses and apartments to be built farther west. The ban on public utilities in the western county was meant to preserve farmland, she said, but instead of doing that, it has merely allowed hundreds of large homes on 3-acre lots.

"I think we should look at where else in the county we can develop housing of any kind," she said.

It is important to know that the last time Barbara Russell spoke about this publicly was while she was campaigning and just prior to her extended vacation in the Hawaiian Islands (I often wonder how many votes she would have gotten if she was upfront with the residents of Oakland Mills and disclosed that she would miss two months of service while on vacation).

On October 18, 2007, the Baltimore Sun published an article that featured a poll conducted by the 1000 Friends of Maryland (Sprawl too much, too fast, poll finds). The poll shows that Marylanders are concerned about the pace of growth in the Freestate:

Overall, respondents said they consider traffic, housing costs, loss of farmland and poorly planned growth as some of the most serious problems facing Maryland.
Traffic ranked near the top of respondents' concerns, with 66 percent calling it an "extremely" or "very serious" problem.

More voters rated traffic as a "very serious" problem than said the same for public education, the cost of health insurance, or taxes. Fifty-six percent rated loss of farmland and poorly planned growth and development as "extremely" or "very serious" problems.

Now, inspection of the survey results shows the remarks of Barbara Russell are in close agreement with those responding to the survey. All parties are concerned about the pace, quality, and effects of growth. It is Russell’s proposed solutions that are at odds.

While Russell would like to see the water and sewer service expanded into the rural western part of Howard County (to allow for construction of townhouses and apartment complexes), 80% of respondents to the 1000 Friends survey stated that the loss of farmland was at least a “somewhat serious” concern.

Moreover, because there are not many jobs or basic shopping needs in the west, nearly all residents of the Russell townhouses and apartments would need a car to meet basic daily needs. This would increase the traffic on the roads. Conversely, 89% of survey respondents felt that traffic congestion is at least a “somewhat serious” problem. It is also important to note that Howard County’s population, with approximately 1/3 the population of Baltimore, logs more vehicle miles on the road annually than the population of Charm City.

Lastly, diverting projects to the west will not, in the long run, solve the problems that face the county today. A westward expansion would just extend a low intensity use of land. Traffic will not abate and the low density settlements will preclude any investment in mass transit. Nothing in the eastern section of the county will change, and because of additional development in the west, the amount of impervious surface will increase, thereby increasing the detrimental effects of stormwater runoff in the Patuxent Watershed. This is in effect poor planning. 83% of survey respondents indicated that poorly planned growth and development was a problem in Maryland.

In closing, page 5 of the poll summary document indicates the amount of support for possible policies to mitigate the problems associated with growth. One policy, the “steering of new development to towns and cities rather than outlying suburbs” received 72% support by respondents.

It is my hope that Chairperson Russell will rethink her position.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. As a resident of Western Howard, Russell's statements anger me for her ignorance on what affordable housing it and how it works.

While I would love to see more affordable housing or higher density in the west, just dumping affordable units with no plan makes no sense. At this point in time, there are very few jobs in the west, there is no public transportation (unless you are disabled or elderly). What very little the west does have to offer is spread so far apart that it will take a massive effort to connect the services. For example, even though there is a community center and library, they are far away from the food store. The food store has no pharmacy, and the closest hospital is 30 minutes away.

You'd be marooning people in the rural west.

Mt Airy is a wonderful example of increased density in a rural area. 55+ duplexes surround a senior center and library, and the area is complete with sidewalks to connect that area with neighborhoods with houses on smaller lots, there are townhouses in walking distances, there's a connection to Main Street where there is food and shopping, and there are food stores and medical offices within a mile.

Russell wasn't making any sort of constructive suggestion other than to say "not in Oakland Mills". An education in affordable housing would do her well.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Russell is clueless on the issue and is simply pandering to her constituents who have forgotten the Rouse/Columbia vision strongly supported affordable housing. She goes on vacation for two months as Chair and "delegates" the Columbia B-Day celebration. Then comes back and speaks out against issues outside of Columbia. What has she done for Oakland Mills? I heard they lost thier CA funding for thier famous revitaliztion efforts! I hope her constituents remember this come next year's election.