Lawmakers discuss growth issues

October 27, 2005|by KAREN HANNA


With development sprouting across Washington County, the demands of new growth and aging infrastructure must be balanced, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said Wednesday during a discussion of the Maryland General Assembly's agenda for the coming year.

Shank said while school construction must be the state's first priority in funding, he believes Annapolis can deliver assistance in a project to ease congestion at the Dual Highway-Edgewood Drive intersection.

"The good thing is you can have your cake and eat it, too," Shank quipped in response to a question about which capital projects deserved greater attention.


About 40 people attended the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Pre-Legislative Forum at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

Shank, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, addressed the crowd.

Shank urged local leaders, including Hagerstown Mayor Richard F. Trump, to work together on the Dual Highway intersection, which he called "this county's key transportation priority."

"We simply cannot stand back and allow it to become a congested artery, we've got to think ahead," Shank said.

Weldon said the county must deal with growth now and not let the burden of new development fall solely on existing residents. As a former city employee of Brunswick, Md., and Frederick, Md., Weldon warned that if the issue of growth is not addressed appropriately, voters will throw their support behind cycles of pro-growth and anti-growth candidates, which will prevent the municipalities from effectively planning for the future.

To help ensure work-force housing is part of new developments, Weldon suggested the county and municipalities adopt a Frederick County approach. That practice allows developers to build higher-density developments in exchange for work-force housing, Weldon said.

In response to questions regarding education, Munson and McKee said they are confident the state will continue to fully fund operating programs, while catching up on capital projects for both new and existing facilities.

Munson suggested the business community stay engaged in the new University System of Maryland in Hagerstown to guarantee its success. McKee said funding for Hagerstown Community College will be discussed during a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee next week. The fastest-growing community college in the state, HCC attracts many students from outside Maryland, who do not count in the state's funding formula, McKee said.

Shank said the county faces not only tension between the demands of development and the need to repair infrastructure, but also must make sure new residents are picking up their fair share. Funding for capital projects for schools last year was $251 million. One way of addressing needs some school jurisdictions across the country have adopted is leasing, Shank said.

"It may be something, in fact I think it is something, that I think the county ought to explore as we look at the big-ticket items that are out there," Shank said.

Last year, the state gave $6.1 million to Washington County Public Schools for the system's facilities needs, Shank said.

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