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.