ANNAPOLIS Comptroller William Donald Schaefer demanded to know why plans for a bypass road in Brookeville were rejected and said he plans to visit the town himself to learn more about the situation.
During a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, Schaefer told Greg Pecoraro, assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, that he wanted to know more about why the transportation department and the Maryland Office of Planning blocked the bypass.
The project was bumped from the state’s transportation plan because it was not consistent with Smart Growth, an initiative of Gov. Parris N. Glendening designed to curb urban sprawl and preserve the environment, said Chuck Brown, Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman.
Schaefer’s disagreement with the Glendening decision may be the first of what government observers say could be a long list of arguments between the two. Friction between Schaefer, who preceeded Glendening as governor, and Glendening is nothing new, although they seemed to make up during the first Board of Public Works meeting two weeks ago, when they exchanged candy, flowers and jokes about their tense relationship.
The bypass project is important, its supporters say. It was designed to improve safety and preserve the historic flavor of Brookeville by diverting traffic from Route 97 or Georgia Avenue, which runs through the 200-year-old town. State officials rejected the plan, fearing the bypass would be a catalyst to development in northern Montgomery County and in Howard and Carroll counties.
But Schaefer was not satisfied with the decision, said Deputy Comptroller Robert Swann, who attended the meeting.
“He personally thinks it should go forward,” Swann said.
The Montgomery County legislative leadership persuaded Glendening on Friday to revisit the Brookeville decision and work with the community to find a way to protect the needs of the residents and the goals of Smart Growth, said Donald H. Vandrey, a spokesman for the governor.
But Schaefer said the state needs to make a decision one way or another instead of dragging the issue out longer.
“You can’t do that to a community,” Schaefer said.
Sen. Christopher McCabe, a Republican who represents parts of Montgomery and Howard Counties, said he received letters from Schaefer and Treasurer Richard Dixon, indicating their support to put the bypass back in the state’s transportation plan.
McCabe said the “loose assurances” that the state will revisit the decision are not sufficient and he is working with county and city officials to prepare a formal appeal of the decision.
Al Gardner, president of the Brookeville Commissioners, said he supports the move to appeal the decision.
“There are no other ways to alleviate the traffic. It will destroy the historic nature of the place if they don’t do something,” he said. “The bypass won’t stimulate more growth. Growth is going on as rapidly as it can, bypass or no bypass.”
But transportation officials say talk about constructing a bypass is premature.
“We’ll work with the community on every other option to address traffic issues,” Brown said. “A bypass could be considered only after all other options have been exhausted.”
Schaefer said he plans to visit Brookeville some time in the next week, Swann said. Officials from the transportation department will accompany him, Brown said.