Why Baltimore County Needs 'Smart Growth'

Last Thursday, bicycle advocates from Bikemore, Bike Maryland, Towson University and throughout Baltimore County testified at the Capital Improvements Project Budget hearing. We were asking that Baltimore County dedicate resources to build multi-modal connections to increase the safety for folks choosing to travel on foot or by bike. Their current plan of using State Bikeways money to add "share the road" signage along high speed corridors is insufficient, especially when compared to the investments other counties across Maryland are making to increase bike friendliness. 

At the meeting, we also got to watch as a dozen residents or so testified on issues of horrific flooding in their neighborhood, and demanded that improvements to storm water management be made. Their property is in peril, and residents who have lived in that neighborhood for over 30 years, discussed how it really only became an issue in the past five years. 

Smart Growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that promotes dense development that prioritizes walkable, bikable design and preserves natural resources like farmland and green space to prevent urban sprawl. Tonight the Baltimore County Council will vote on a key piece of Smart Growth legislation that seeks to increase the Open Space fees currently assessed of developers that do not wish to include or preserve open space in their design. We commend Councilman David Marks for his leadership on bringing forth this legislation to a vote. 

As the advocacy organization that promotes building communities that are safer for biking and walking and creates livable streets, we believe in policies that address the impacts of unchecked development at the peril of the environmental health of a community. 

Open Space preservation has obvious aesthetic and environmental benefits to the community, but it has real economic ones too. I would venture to guess that the residents who saw an increase of flooding caused by an out of date sewer system becoming overwhelmed by storm water, saw this increase due to what some would categorize as the loose development restrictions in Towson that has led to a glut of construction projects over the past ten years. Paving over green space eliminates natural places for water to enter back into the water table, forcing the sewer system to accommodate larger amounts of run off. 

If the council votes to increase fees to encourage more open space preservation in construction projects, developers will be forced to either pay the real costs associated with removing permeable surfaces or implement design solutions that allow both commercial growth through development and preservation of open space. 

If the County provided safe ways for residents to access these commercial developments by foot or by bike, developers could seek to develop projects along these corridors and perhaps eliminate the amount of car parking (and thus pavement) required. 

We encourage Baltimore County Residents to contact their council person and tell them to SUPPORT AN INCREASE OF OPEN SPACE FEES, and preserve green space in Baltimore County for generations to come. When weighing the cost of upgrading sewer systems to handle increased run off, or investing in smart growth philosophies such as improving biking and walking access and increasing open space, we feel it's a no brainer. It is time the County set the rules for how communities grow, and encourage developers to innovate, rather than pass the costs of sprawl onto taxpayers. 

Want to add your voice to the growing force for bicycling and smart growth in Baltimore County? Sign our petition