ANNAPOLIS Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard Dixon challenged the governor’s handling of the controversial Brookeville and Manchester bypasses, which have run into trouble for not meeting state anti- sprawl objectives.
During a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, Schaefer and Dixon criticized Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s inconsistent treatment of the two long-planned road projects.
The projects were bumped from the state’s transportation plan because they were not consistent with Smart Growth, an initiative designed to curb urban sprawl and preserve the environment.
The Brookeville bypass won a reprieve after protests from local and state leaders prompted Glendening to reconsider the decision. He sent a letter to Montgomery County Council President Isiah Leggett on Friday, proposing that it could be built if measures were taken to prevent future sprawl, including no widening of the road.
Leggett said the county agrees with the conditions of the governor’s proposal and will work with Brookeville to implement them.
“I could not be more pleased with the agreement and am confident that it will work out to the benefit of everybody,” Leggett said.
But Schaefer said he is concerned with one provision of the proposal, which would require the county to reimburse the state the entire cost of the project if the required measures fail to curb traffic growth along Route 97.
“It’s a blackjack approach. `If you don’t do exactly what we say in your county, give us your money back.’ That’s not right. It shouldn’t be done. I totally disagree with the approach you’re using,” Schaefer said. “It’s a bad precedent. A terrible precedent.”
Leggett said that is a risk the county is willing to take.
The $13 million 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. Brookeville was the capital of the United States for one day, when President James Madison moved his government there in 1814 when the British set fire to Washington.
State officials rejected the plan, fearing the bypass would be a catalyst to development in northern Montgomery, Howard and Carroll counties.
Wednesday’s meeting was the third in which Schaefer criticized the governor’s actions concerning Brookeville.
Al Gardner, president of the Brookeville Commissioners, said the town does not want to expand the road.
“We want to keep it a two-lane road,” he said. “We don’t want to make it a major highway.”
Gardner said he is pleased with the outcome.
“This is a big step forward from where we were before,” he said. “We feel very good about it. At least there is agreement on all sides and a commitment from the governor and the state to go ahead with the bypass project.”
Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, agreed.
“I think it’s a great compromise,” she said. “If we want the Brookeville bypass and want to adhere to Smart Growth, we have to fall into place with Smart Growth and the governor will give us the road.”
Supporters of the Manchester bypass hope they will get their road, too.
Citizens in Carroll County are concerned that the approved construction of a bypass around Hampstead will sharply increase the volume of traffic through Manchester, and that’s why another bypass is needed there.
The Hampstead bypass would end on Route 30, Manchester’s Main Street, according to Delegate Joseph M. Getty, R-Carroll.
“This is the underlying problem of Smart Growth,” Getty said. “You have state bureaucrats all of a sudden telling these communities what’s best for them.”
He said the Manchester bypass plan has been deferred since it was put on the state’s transportation plan in 1965.
“Now we’re not only pushed aside, we’re erased off the board altogether,” he said.
Dixon said rejecting one bypass and not the other would create a traffic “bottleneck.”
“The real Smart Growth decision would be to build the bypass,” he said.
The $70 million Manchester bypass plan was rejected because it did not fall within an area identified by the county for future growth, according to Chuck Brown, Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman. The Hampstead bypass made the Smart Growth cut because it lies mostly within that area and was further along the development pipeline, Brown said.
County commissioners recently sent a letter to Glendening, Dixon and Schaefer asking for an appeal, said Julia Gouge, president of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners.
Dixon said he wanted to put the issue on the agenda for the next Board of Public Works meeting.