Swallowed by the city

Capital (Annapolis, MD), 2014-06-25

Like many Anne Arundel County residents, I'm wondering who defines smart growth?

There are indications all around us that big plans are in the works; just count the planes flying over us in route to BWI, read about the annexation of property in order to leverage higher density development, note the traffic jams on ironically named Forest Drive . And by the time you're done tallying up the orange and red bad air quality alerts, increases in beach closures due to rising coliform counts and note diminished crab populations and the near extinction of oysters -- it's pretty clear that the club for growth is really a cudgel.

However, the big question worth pondering when it comes to development is -- "When is enough really too much?" To me it's when the all-up-cost of development starts to hamper the systems it intrudes upon, and, in this case, the stress is already being felt in systems as diverse as water quality and traffic management.

At a recent meeting at Quiet Waters Park , the site of a new sewer main expressway, the planning department explained how and why sewage from the Mayo Peninsula was going to be piped to Annapolis via the park. The spokesperson introduced research indicating that between now and 2035 the population of the area would grow by just 8 percent, and the Annapolis wastewater treatment facility would have plenty of capacity to handle the load.

The net impact of the Crystal Spring development and other annexed land expansion plans seemed to fly under the radar. Population growth was based on extrapolations using present zoning, not the de facto ploy of buying farmland, obtaining annexation and zoning changes and footprinting yet another high density development on an already crowded neck of land.

Smart growth involves knowing when to stop, and it's time we residents pin down our local elected officials to see just where they stand on urban expansion and its influence on the plight of the Chesapeake Bay -- a key metric with which to gauge land use management.