Baltimore County Now
Andrea Van Arsdale, Director
Baltimore County Department of Planning
Have you ever ventured out past the Beltway and begun to notice office buildings, retail centers, and residential communities giving way to agricultural fields, pastures, and wooded stream valleys? These areas are not just beautiful scenery and they didn’t stay green by accident. The open fields and forested areas protect the tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, shield the waterways from suburban runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife pressured by development.
You may wonder, how have these areas have managed to remain rural? Since 1967, Baltimore County has been protecting its agricultural and environmental resources through responsible and sustainable land use policies and regulations. As a result, we have a legacy of sustainable growth and remain a national leader in this movement.
Last year, the Maryland legislature passed Senate Bill 236, introducing similar land use strategies statewide. SB236 calls for all jurisdictions to classify their land according to four distinct growth tiers that define levels of residential development. Under the direction of County Executive Kamenetz, the Planning Department solicited input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Building upon that information and following the implementation guidelines from the State, the Planning Department established and mapped our four growth tiers. Within the County’s rural areas, the growth tiers set the number of houses served by individual septic systems. This serves to further prevent suburban sprawl and to encourage investment in the County’s established neighborhoods and older Beltway communities – the essence of smart growth.
Baltimore County’s Growth Tiers received highly favorable recognition from the Maryland Department of Planning and 1000 Friends of Maryland. We were proud to be one of the first in the state to submit our growth tiers map, especially since it was approved with no changes by the state. The County’s strong land use policies and regulations will help ensure the preservation of our agricultural heritage and the future health of the Chesapeake Bay.
With today’s bright blue sky and downright balmy temperatures, it’s hard to believe that snow is in the forecast. While the models differ and meteorologists are hedging on the accumulation potential, here’s an insider’s look at some of the challenges of a major snowstorm.
When the world turns white and wind blows knee-high drifts across the road, driving a plow is like being at sea in the perfect storm. Roads and landmarks disappear. You often run on instinct, and always on a lot of adrenalin. The days are long and hard.
After five or six inches of snow, County roads can turn into an obstacle course. Plowing begins as an adventure, but quickly becomes a bare-knuckle trek as we clear streets and avoid parked cars, signs, mail boxes, buried curbs and covered pedestrian islands.
We start early – hours before the snow is expected – so that crews can assemble and so we can check equipment and load salt. Then, when the first flakes hit the ground, we begin our routes: 166 separate routes across the County, covering 2600 miles with 300 trucks and 400 personnel.
We can salt and clear a normal snow (about three or four inches) in a long day. But when the snow gets deeper, the time on the road gets exponentially longer – three, even four, days with only short breaks for food and sleep during the heaviest snows.
The grub is not gourmet during a blizzard; lunch and dinner are what’s left on the shelves at the convenience store. But it’s filling – and sometimes warm. Rest is another matter. We can either go back to the shop for a few winks or pull over to the side of the road. Either way, it’s not very restful.
In the big storms, like Snowmegeddon of 2010, we did our best work at night, when the traffic was off the streets. If we’re lucky, we get to neighborhood streets before residents begin shoveling their driveways into the streets – which makes our job just a little harder. But even in the best of circumstances, narrow courts and cul-de-sacs are a challenge. Maneuvering a ten-ton truck with a ten-foot plow on the bumper through a circle of parked cars can be like threading a needle in the dark.
Salting is, of course, a big part of the job. The County stocks 52 thousand tons of salt in 14 locations, and we put down whatever it takes – though we try to use it sparingly. People complain, with some justification, that salt damages cars and can get into the water table. But when people are snow-bound, these issues seem less important.
Pushing snow is hard, exhausting and grinding… but it’s important. Snow duty in Baltimore County is not just driving a truck. It’s the work that keeps our roads open, that lets you get to the store or to your job, and that clears the way for police, fire and medical responders to handle emergencies which don’t stop for the weather. That’s why we do it.
Remember, you can get updates about road conditions and percentage of roads plowed on our Snowfighters page. Plus you can follow Baltimore County Emergency Management on Twitter @BACOEmergency for information to keep your family safe in severe weather or other emergencies.
February 14th is here – what better time to Find an unFurgettable Friend? Whether you’re looking for a little buddy for your sweetheart or a furry pal for yourself, this weekend is the purrrfect time to adopt a cat or dog into your family. February, find, friend, furry, family…we forgot to mention one “F” – free!
The Baltimore County Animal Shelter is offering free adoption this weekend. Any pet adopted or placed on hold for adoption on Saturday, February 16, will be adopted free of charge, with the exception of the cost of a cat or dog license at the time of the adoption. Think about it – it’s winter, and more time is spent at home indoors, which means that you and your family members will have more quality time to bond, establish a routine, and get off to the best start with your new pet.
In addition to companionship, pets are also good for your health. According to WebMD, extensive research has shown that living with a pet provides health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, lessening anxiety, and boosting immunity. Why not improve the quality of your life while rescuing another?
Baltimore County Animal Shelter has plenty of adoptable pets waiting for responsible owners who will love and care for them. If you are in the market for a new pet, but now isn't a good time, then consider purchasing an adoption gift certificate for only $65. This low fee includes your pet, a spay/neuter certificate, pet license (required by Baltimore County law), rabies shot, the first series of vaccinations, a microchip with lifetime registry, and a welcome home kit.
Share your home, happiness, and heart with a warm, lovable, and unFurgettable friend.