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editorial - 4/16/01 - both

April 13, 2001

Will region be able to cope with metro-style growth?



Detailed figures for the 2000 U.S. Census were released recently, and showed that every county in the Tri-State area grew by at least 3 percent since 1990, with Frederick County, Md., and Berkeley County, W.Va., topping the growth charts at 30 and 28.1 percent respectively.

The long-expected wave of growth from metropolitan Washington, D.C. has arrived, with no indications there won't be another surge right behind it. There are a number of things local governments need to do, so that they and long-time residents aren't overwhelmed by the costs of growth. Our short list includes:

- Decide soon whether the preservation of agriculture is really a priority. Plenty of lip service has been given to this issue, but not much effort to solving farmers' real problem - that prices for their crops, including milk, are hardly enough to make the long hours and hard work worthwhile. Financial aid of some sort - price supports or preservation easements - will be cheaper than paying for the new roads, schools, etc., needed when farmers get tired of trying and sell out to developers.

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- Get the road network in shape. There are too many two-lane roads being asked to carry freeway-type loads. The idea of levying impact fees for road upgrades, not to mention new school construction, needs another look. And so do incentives to carpool or use mass transit.

- Explore combining local government operations to maximize efficiency and minimize taxpayers' costs. Does every municipality really need its own police force and/or planning commission?

- Look at the possibility of a regional police agency that could cross county and state lines to fight the illegal drug trade and target the people who knowingly profit from it, like those who shelter dealers in exchange for cash or other goods.

Finally, it wouldn't be bad idea to look in detail at those areas where growth has already taken place and ask officials there what they'd do differently if they had the chance. Planners and consultants can project what will happen in the future, but we'd also like to hear from some folks who've already experienced it.

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