An issue of growing importance

September 04, 2005|By LIZ THOMPSON

Today, The Herald-Mail begins a weeklong series looking at growth and its effects on Washington County.

After years of people warning about rapid growth in Washington County, it has arrived.

New homes - many of them out of the price range for many people - are springing up all over the county.

The Washington County Commissioners last week reviewed information about just how many houses could be built here. More than 9,100 residential units are proposed for dozens of planned developments over the next several years.

Some schools already are overcrowded and many of the roads in Washington County were not built to carry the traffic loads they now have.


Firefighters, police officers and ambulance crews often are stretched thin. And still, people and businesses keep coming.

There's good news in growth. It brings additional revenue in taxes.

But there also is bad news in growth. Services of all kinds are pushed to the limit, and it costs money to correct issues of overcrowding and poor roads, and meet demands for services such as fire and rescue, and water and sewer.

Taxes on residential properties rarely pay for the cost of services. Growth often creates far more problems - at least initially - than it ever solves.

In this weeklong series, The Herald-Mail looks at growth in terms of housing, roads, schools and more. We have talked to longtime residents and newcomers. We talked to school officials, county officials and asked our neighbors in Frederick what they did to deal with growth.

From this Sunday through next Sunday, we will look at many aspects of growth we could think of and, still, we will have barely touched the surface.

So, the series will be only the first step we take in covering the issue of growth.

Beginning this month, The Herald-Mail will dedicate much of one reporter's time to the issue. We have restructured the beats to create a growth beat. Reporter Andrew Schotz will take on this new beat.

While Schotz also might look at growth issues in nearby Pennsylvania and West Virginia, his primary focus will be Washington County. He will be the reporter who covers the city and county planning commissions. He will track building permits and applications for new or expanded developments. He will be watching commercial and industrial development in the county.

When a particular development becomes a major issue, he will be the reporter who digs into the issue.

We're doing this because we believe growth has become one of the dominant issues facing governments and individuals in Washington County.

You are focused on it. We should be, too.

Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682, or by e-mail at

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