As he runs for re-election, County Executive Steve Schuh also runs the risk that every plan he announces from now until November will be squinted at through a political lens. If an immediate expense is involved, it will be attacked as an attempt to curry favor by diverting money from more pressing needs. If it’s a long-range effort, it will be mocked as an attempt to buy votes with a thick slice of pie in the sky.
The concept announced last week for buying the 100-year-old Belle Grove Landfill in Brooklyn Park actually involves a bit of both: in the short term, a land purchase now being negotiated; over the long haul, plans to use the 160 acres for schools, athletic fields and, possibly, a regional park on the order of Quiet Waters near Annapolis or Downs Park in Pasadena.
But election year or not, this is a first-rate idea — an attempt to convert an eyesore into a community asset in a part of the county that badly needs investment and imaginative planning. What Schuh has in mind would obviously be a vast improvement over what’s on the site now: a gravel mine, asphalt milling and a dump that’s the burial plot for debris from the construction of the National Aquarium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Over the years, there have been sporadic efforts to bolster the Brooklyn Park neighborhood north of the Baltimore Beltway, including ambitious housing developments killed by the recession and a stab at creating an arts district.
But Schuh — who used to represent the area as a delegate — was stating no more than the truth when he said on the site last week, “For far too long, past county administrations have not invested here in north county.” There hasn’t been a new school built there in 46 years. There hasn’t been a new park established in 30.
Schuh calls his “new day for Brooklyn Park” concept “a 100-year opportunity.” The $28 million plan is made possible by a shift in funding — from 25-year to 30-year bonds — for county construction projects. We’re hoping the purchase can be finalized and the plans pursued by the county government, no matter what the results of this year’s election.