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Candidates Cornered on Growth Strategies

G. Wayne Livesay, who is running for Howard County Council, says keeping the rural areas on well water and septic systems can help limit growth.
G. Wayne Livesay, who is running for Howard County Council, says keeping the rural areas on well water and septic systems can help limit growth. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

"We seem to give the developers carte blanche to do anything," Prince George's County Council hopeful Phil Lee (D) said at a candidates' forum this week. Many in the crowd nodded vigorously.

In Montgomery, the interest in moderating growth, fueled by last year's revelations of lax county oversight of development at Clarksburg Town Center, has attracted bipartisan support and may have contributed to a decision not to revive the "End Gridlock" slate.

The council's lone Republican, Howard A. Denis (Potomac-Bethesda), who is running for reelection, recently stood with several Democrats to accept the endorsement of the slow-growth Neighbors for a Better Montgomery. Denis also points proudly to his efforts to win passage of the county's first law to clamp down on mansionization in older neighborhoods.

Democrat Roger Berliner, his likely opponent in November's general election, said the Clarksburg experience shows that the "county, including [Denis], utterly failed us."

Members of the End Gridlock slate, who ran four years ago with the help of contributions from County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and the development industry, this year are campaigning separately.

The slate -- Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) and at-large Democrats Nancy Floreen, George L. Leventhal, Michael L. Subin and Steven A. Silverman -- backed the intercounty connector and lifted some restrictions on development.

Silverman is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive and has won backing from many in the development industry, as have the others, but none is flaunting those connections.

Last week, Silverman, who is locked in a tight race with Isiah "Ike" Leggett, began broadcasting a television ad that portrays him as eager to "limit and manage growth."

Knapp said there had been no formal decision to disband the slate but added that he wasn't sure it was particularly helpful to run together.

A new political action committee -- the Committee for Responsible Growth, whose chairman is Mark Scott, a prominent builder -- sent out a mailing last week endorsing the former members of the slate.

Council member Marilyn Praisner (D-East County), who is often on the opposite side from the End Gridlock team, said there are signs of a backlash.

"People are talking to me about inadequate infrastructure and other consequences" of a 2003 council vote to lift some restrictions on growth, she said.

In Howard, the slow growth advocates also are watching the candidates carefully. At the forum, several suggested that the best path might be the one laid out by James Rouse, who developed Columbia in the 1960s and '70s by carefully plotting open space, recreation, bike paths and swimming pools and setting up a system of small villages.

"We must take the gift he gave us and move forward with it," said Howard school board member Mary Kay Sigaty, who is facing Joshua Feldmark and a candidate who lists himself on the ballot as X UNcommon in the Democratic primary for a council seat that includes Columbia. Feldmark, too, is a Rouse partisan.

Rouse's vision is important, Sigaty added, "so the next generation and the next generation and the generation beyond that will be proud to say they live in Columbia and in Howard County."

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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