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NOW YOU KNOW: Addressing Development Concerns and Preserving our Waterways

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The following is an op-ed piece from Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki.

As you may have read, there are significant local concerns over the 1,000 plus new apartments coming to the White Marsh area. Many residents in Eastern Baltimore County are witnessing a sprawling development taking place along Route 1, Route 43, and beyond. Much of the rural character of these areas is in danger. In efforts to preserve the waterfront, keep our waterways clean, and prevent the overdevelopment of our county, we have taken various steps toward working with the community and our local and federal partners.

In March, we wrote to Senator Cardin to request his support for the potential purchase of the property where the former C.P. Crane Power Plant existed in Bowleys Quarters. We asked for his help to preserve this green space in the critical area of the Chesapeake Bay, which would also create a needed green space crossing much of the eastern Baltimore County waterfront from Bowleys Quarters to Gunpowder Falls State Park. This purchase will turn a former power plant into a space that supports the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay, grows Baltimore County’s tree canopy, and provides the residents with a waterfront park.

In addition, we asked for Senator Cardin’s support in dredging the Gunpowder and Bird Rivers along with a similar project taking place in the spring in or near the Inner Harbor. Since the Gunpowder and Bird Rivers are also federal waterways, we believed that would have been the perfect time to have a value-added dredging project occur since a dredge would already be in the Upper Bay. The historically significant and economically important Gunpowder and Bird Rivers are an economic engine for the Upper Bay. Their access is critical to the health of the Bay’s economy. Unfortunately, neither of our requests have been granted as of yet, but we will continue to press the issue.

We have been very active working to have the former Crane Power Plant Facility repurposed as a park with open space for the community. Delegate Nawrocki recently toured the facility and met with the developers who now own the property. We also submitted testimony opposing the proposed extension of the public water and sewer to the former Crane location. to the Baltimore County Planning Board.

The extension of water and sewer to this site beyond the URDL (Urban-Rural Demarcation Line) would be precedent setting and could have long-term implications for other areas outside of the URDL like Kingsville, that are currently zoned for low-density uses. Extending public water and sewer would invite the development of high-density housing and other types of commercial development.

We join the community in opposing the extension of water and sewer that would allow further development. The roads and other infrastructure can not accommodate the additional toll that public water and sewer would allow to this peninsula community.

As we stated in the letter to the Baltimore County Planning Board, we have been working with county, state, and federal stakeholders to acquire the funds to purchase a portion of the property at approximately $10 million and preserve it as a open space for wildlife and passive recreation. Through our work, we received a $1.25 million commitment from the State of Maryland based upon this property being utilized as a park. About $6.3 million has been raised in total to buy the property from local, state, and federal funds.

Unfortunately, the majority of the Baltimore County Planning Board voted last week to extend the water and sewer beyond the URDL, with only two members voting no. The vote took place after minimal discussion. We will continue to oppose this potential development project and protect the rural character of Eastern Baltimore County.

Finally, the impending 1,000+ apartments in White Marsh continues to be a significant concern. The public is invited to attend a community meeting where the White Marsh Town Center Task Force unveils its recommendations for future land use, transportation, open space, and other issues impacting White Marsh Mall and surrounding areas. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 26th, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Community Christian Church, 8009 Corporate Drive. To view the draft of the recommendations, visit https://www.perryhallmaryland.org.

We would like to thank all the White Marsh Town Center Task Force members for their dedicated work over the past ten months. We encourage the community to attend the meeting and continue to support what is best for the surrounding area.

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