Local Quality of Life
Traffic and Intersections
Our transportation infrastructure has not kept up with the rapid pace of growth that our County has experienced and a major consequence has been increasingly bad traffic.
Great examples of this include Route 3 in Crofton or 214 in South County. Don't we all know someone who has been in an accident on these roads? Commute times are getting longer and longer. Waldorf was recently ranked as having the #1 worst commute times in the entire country! Anyone who knows Route 3 knows that we are quickly becoming another Waldorf.
Increased traffic means idling cars, which lowers our air quality. It also affects the response times of our first responders.
This problem is definitely serving to lower our quality of life.
Intersections are another area where investments in updated infrastructure has not kept up with he pace of growth, causing bad traffic and terrible commute times.
Good examples of this include the intersection of Route 3 and 424, and of 424 and 450 (Staples Corner). It should not take 20 minutes to drive from Crofton Parkway to the Bell Branch Athletic Complex, but it often does because of the way traffic bottlenecks at the Staple's Corner intersection.
Again, this lowers our quality of life. But there are solutions!
Some of the Traffic Impact Studies that the County uses to make key decisions about infrastructure upgrades are a joke!
This lack of good, reliable information leads to bad decisions and a deteriorating quality of life.
Our County is running a ponzi scheme when it comes to how to fund infrastructure upgrades made necessary by new development projects!
When new development occurs we charge the developers "impact fees." These fees are supposed to help cover the costs to the public that occur due to the development: upgrades to roads and intersections, expanding the capacity of the local schools, etc. However, according to the County Executive (speaking at the annual meeting of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association on June 1, 2017) this is how impact fees work (I'm paraphrasing):
"Impact fees are community specific. So when a project occurs in Arnold we collect the fees and put the money in a lockbox designates for Arnold. We continue collecting fees and adding them to that lockbox and after a few years there is enough money in it to do something with and we make an upgrade in Arnold."
This means that the impact fees we collect for a specific project are not enough to cover the upgrades that the project makes necessary. This might be OK if we are intentionally subsidizing that project, but then we need to have the money on hand to make up the difference. So the fees we collect for a project really go to funding the upgrades that a prior project necessitates, and the upgrades that this project makes necessary will be funded by subsequent projects. Traffic keeps getting worse and worse and we are dependent on an unending cycle of growth.
What a sham! It is no wonder that our traffic is getting worse leading to a lower quality of life
We must stop wasting taxpayer money by paying contractors for worthless studies.
One way this can be done is to add some specific standards to what we require in the Traffic Impact Studies. For example, we should require that a road/intersection must be studied for more than one day.
This will help to guarantee that the information that these studies provide the County is sound. Reliable information is needed so that we can make informed decisions about what updates to our transportation infrastructure are necessary.
We stop the ponzi scheme by requiring that we make the necessary upgrades to the transportation infrastructure before the development project is finished.
This way we will have a period of really good traffic as the infrastructure designed to handle the increased traffic that the project will generate will be present before that extra traffic arrives. Once the project is finished traffic will return to about what it was before.
Land use is an issue that relates to almost all of the others.
Simply put, residential development does not pay for itself and so the rest of us have to subsidize it with our tax dollars. This means that residential development needs to be well managed.
It is not currently being well managed, and the increased subsidies that the tax payers keep having to provide strain our budget and make it hard to pay for all of the necessary upgrades to our transportation infrastructure.
Fixing the way we manage land use will help relieve this growing strain on our budget and help us afford to make the proper investments in infrastructure.
Land use is a big issue, and so has its own section. Please refer to that section to see a much more detailed overview of the problem and my proposed solutions.
Implementing my first three proposals will help keep traffic from getting worse. This is key, as stopping the problem from spreading is the first step.
However, those proposals won't help make the traffic that we already have get any better. For that, we need a better relationship with state officials. My election will represent a change in the status quo and so will create an opportunity to build those better relationships, which can be used to solicit more funds to help upgrade the state highways (like Route 3) in our district.
We were promised Smart Growth but have received dumb growth instead.
The way that growth has proceeded, essentially unmanaged, has created all sorts of problems: outdated infrastructure, increasingly bad traffic, overcrowded schools, environmental degradation, and has increasingly strained the county budget.
This has to stop!
The General Development Plan (GDP) must be treated as more than a nice set of non-binding guidelines.
The GDP is the one chance every ten years for citizens to weigh in on how they want development to occur (or not to occur) in their communities. The GDP does not have the force of law, but once it is adopted the county undergoes a comprehensive re-zoning process that (supposedly) codifies the intentions of the GDP into our zoning practices. However, there are two political breakdowns that have caused the rezoning to differ quite largely from the intentions of the GDP.
- The County Executive is responsible for introducing the re-zoning bill. The bill his administration introduces can deviate as much as he wants from the GDP.
- The County Council members often introduce amendments to the rezoning bill that serve a political favors to their donors. These amendments often come at the very last minute and there is no time to review them or receive pubic comment.
Residential development costs more in services than it contributes in tax revenues.
Competing studies of the cost of development in a Virginia community show that their county spends somewhere between $1.20 - $1.62 in services for every $1.00 received in tax revenues per residential unit. Even if we use the low end of that range, their county is still losing money! The national average is $1.18 in services per $1.00 in revenues (see the above article). We need a study done here, so we can gauge the true costs of growth in AACo.
If we are losing money on each new residential unit that is built, then we need to be extremely careful how we manage new growth.
In the first budget after I am elected I will push to fund a comprehensive study of the costs of growth in our County. This information will help us to make good decisions about how to manage growth moving forward.
- In the first 30 days after the comprehensive rezoning bill is introduced I will hold 5 town halls to listen to community input.
- I will only submit amendments that bring the comprehensive rezoning bill closer to what the communities want as expressed in the town halls, the Small Area Plans, and the General Development Plan.
- So that all amendments can be adequately scrutinized and commented on by the community, I will not submit any amendments to the rezoning bill within thirty days of voting on the bill.
- I will not vote favorably for any amendment offered by any council member at the last minute. It is irresponsible to support amendments that the community hasn't had time to review and analyze.
When elected, I will submit an ordinance to the County Council to create a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.
A TDR is a program in which a land-owner in an area that we want to keep rural (South County) can sell the development rights of their property to a Developer, who can then use those rights to increase the building density of a project somewhere else in the county.
The landowner in South County makes money and South County stays rural as that property can no longer be built on. The Developer makes money, and the development occurs in the areas that we have already designated to be more dense.
While this program is definitely a good idea, it is not a silver bullet. It should be viewed as one tool in the toolbox of ways to help manage our growth and to keep South County rural.
I will push to increase funding for the Agricultural and Woodland Preservation Program and the Installment Purchase Agreement Program. These programs are currently under attack, the County Council just cut them by $500,000.
Both of these programs involve the county buying the development rights from rural property owners. The landowner gets paid and the public is ensured that the land will be preserved.
Again, this is just one tool in the toolbox; but it should be expanded (n0t cut) and focussed on the most environmentally critical areas in our county.
We want a swimmable, fishable Bay!
Stormwater Runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. When rain falls on impervious surfaces (roads, driveways, rooftops, etc.) the water does not soak into the ground as it would naturally do in the absence of human development. Instead, it runs off of those surfaces and into either (1) directly into streams or other tributaries of the Bay or (2) into the stormwater drainage system and then out into the local body of water.
As stormwater makes its way to the Bay or its tributaries it becomes polluted with things like oils and greases, nutrients, sediments, and other items that have a negative impact on the Bay.
While we can definitely adopt personal practices to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that reaches the Bay, some level of this type of pollution is unavoidable. It is simply part of the carbon footprint we create going about our day-to-day lives. This means that it is the responsibility of us all to support public efforts protect and restore our watershed.
Our County has been criminally negligent in enforcing state law aimed at conserving our forests.
In 1991 Maryland passed the Forest Conservation Act, which requires developers to plant (only) 1/4 of an acre of trees for every acre of trees that they cut down.
Anne Arundel County has failed to even file the required reports documenting our compliance with this law in 5 out of the last 8 years. The three reports available show that we have only made developers plant about 10% of the quantity of trees that they cut down, far below the 25% required by law. The County can't even account for the fees that it has collected from developers (in lieu of them replanting trees).
If we want to continue to have clean drinking water in our County then we have to start planning now - before the crisis hits.
There are many issues that are contributing to either the depletion of our ground water or its pollution:
- Climate Change & rising sea levels has caused more salt-water intrusion into our aquifers, which lowers the quality of our drinking water.
- We don't monitor the septic systems in the county close enough, and so risk polluting the groundwater if these systems leak.
- Old un-lined landfills in South County are a threat to our groundwater as toxins could leak into the aquifers.
- We have paved over much of the re-charge zones for our aquifers and so when it rains they don't refill as much as they should.
- Unmanaged growth has increased the strain on the aquifers as more people are drawing from the same water source.
Unmanaged development occurs at great expense to our environment.
Too much growth contributes to all of the above environmental problems listed above. Over-development creates more impervious surfaces and so increases rainwater runoff. It creates bad traffic and the increased numbers of idling cars worsens our air quality. Many times our forests or farmlands are cleared in order to develop, and we even allow development to continue to occur in our watershed's critical areas.
We cannot claim to care about our environment but not properly manage development.
Don't let anyone tell you that they are pro-environment but want to remove the stormwater protection & restoration fee.
What we do on the local level is becoming more and more important as the President is trying to gut funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program and has pledged to exit the Paris Climate Agreement.
We must protect and bolster the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program in our county.
We need to start complying with the Forest Conservation Act.
These standards were set over 25 years ago and we are not meeting them in Anne Arundel County. Once we get to the level of compliance we should start looking to do even better!
We need to start planning for our future access to clean, safe drinking water.
The first step is to commission a full report so that we can have a clearer sense of this problem and of what the best available policies are to address it.
We need to take seriously the enforcement of our environmental regulations.
This will involve making sure that we have the proper staffing and that they have the resources that they need to do their jobs well.