Re­port finds lack of de­sire for de­vel­op­ment along Route 301

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By KRISTIAN JAIME Kjaime@ches­pub.com

CENTREVILLE — As traf­fic con­cerns grow, Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers heard a re­port on the eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of de­vel­op­ment on Route 301 at their meet­ing Tues­day, Oct. 9.

The re­port, “The Likely

Im­pli­ca­tions of an Im­proved U.S.

301 in Queen Anne’s County,” was pre­pared by the Sage Pol­icy Group of Baltimore for the Queen Anne’s County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion.

Among its fo­cus ar­eas, the 51page re­port in­cluded his­toric and pro­jected traf­fic vol­umes, pro­jected toll traf­fic from Delaware, pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth in the area, ca­pac­ity for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment, im­pact of hous­ing de­mand by 2030, eco­nomic im­pact of a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, and the im­pact of in­vest­ment into wa­ter and sewer im­prove­ments along Route 301 along with re­lated data.

“One of the goals of a county with a large ru­ral com­po­nent is to bal­ance that with com­mer­cial (en­deav­ors),” said Anir­ban Basu, CEO of the Sage Pol­icy Group. “Given what’s hap­pened with Route 301, there’s an ex­pected rapid pickup of traf­fic near the state line. Data shows that pro­jec­tions where it sta­bi­lizes in 2020 and 2021. Also, there’s a mo­ti­va­tion to use Route

301 as an al­ter­na­tive to I-95.” The re­port draws a cor­re­la­tion be­tween in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and a spike in com­mer­cial rev­enue for the county.

Ac­cord­ing to the ex­ec­u­tive sum­mar y, a sim­i­lar cir­cum­stance oc­curred in neigh­bor­ing Caro­line County along Route 404. The abun­dance of prop­erty ripe for de­vel­op­ment made in­vest­ment by the county pre­cip­i­tate the growth of the tax base.

Cit­ing the in­vest­ment into re­sources like broad­band, the Sage Pol­icy Group also high­lighted the in­creased role of telecom­muters to more ur­ban­ized cen­ters like Wash­ing­ton D.C. and Philadel­phia.

The study noted that roughly half of the state’s em­ploy­ment is rooted in freight trans­porta­tion and re­lated in­dus­tries. That in­cludes: ware­hous­ing, re­tail, agri­cul­ture, food pro­cess­ing, con­struc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“I un­der­stand there are cer­tain peo­ple who do not want to take ad­van­tage of these eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. In my eco­nomic im­pact study for Ox­ford, through fo­cus groups, we got the mes­sage that some peo­ple didn’t want any eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment there. They didn’t want change,” con­tin­ued Basu.

Thus, the re­port ar­gues that Route 301 could be­come what some an­a­lysts have al­ready coined as a po­ten­tial “Bay freight cor­ri­dor.” The ad­di­tion of a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the re­port’s find­ings, would cap­i­tal­ize on the area’s most log­i­cal eco­nomic ad­van­tage.

Yet the re­port also un­der­scores ob­sta­cles for the re­gion achiev­ing its eco­nomic po­ten­tial. Im­prov­ing Route 301 also pushes other lo­gis­tic is­sues to the fore­front such as the lack of at-grade cross­ings, lack of sewer and wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture, and the need to widen ar­eas of Route 301 in cer­tain to ac­com­mo­date the in­creased pro­jected traf­fic.

The re­port also ad­dressed tourism to a lesser ex­tent not­ing sig­nage could be cre­ated to high­light lo­cal at­trac­tions and cre­ate more rev­enue.

“Widen­ing of Route 301 can cre­ate a tip­ping fac­tor for both res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial growth ac­tiv­ity. That will cre­ate the in­cen­tive to close this re­tail gap. Queen Anne’s County has an es­ti­mated 12.2 mil­lion square feet of un­in­cor­po­rated, non-res­i­den­tial space for de­vel­op­ment,” Basu ex­plained.

County Com­mis­sion­ers agreed, in the­ory, that grow­ing the tax base was vi­tal to the area’s long-term vi­a­bil­ity, but ques­tioned por­tions of the data that showed the rev­enue brought in by com­mer­cial cen­ters in neigh­bor­ing Delaware.

County Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son cred­ited the lack of state sales tax across the state line as op­posed to Mary­land’s 6 per­cent as in­cen­tive for dis­par­ity. Also pointed out were pre­vi­ous ef­forts by Queen Anne’s County to en­tice large chain stores to re­lo­cate to sim­i­lar lo­ca­tions. Among the dif­fi­cul­ties cited in­cluded over­all pop­u­la­tion den­sity that is of­ten smaller along large swaths of Route 301.

That same is­sue was noted as to why pro­vid­ing broad­band in­ter­net was dif­fi­cult in some ar­eas. Cur­rently, the county has al­ready pro­vided a re­sponse to the state Re­quest for In­for­ma­tion in or­der to re­ceive funds to pur­sue fed­eral monies to be­gin work on ba­sic broad­band in­fra­struc­ture in un­der­served and un­served ar­eas in the county.

Com­mis­sion­ers said the costly na­ture of ex­ten­sive wa­ter and sewer line ex­pan­sion in an area that would still more more time to bear fi­nan­cial fruit. The cur­rent county bud­get, ac­cord­ing County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Steve Wil­son, is al­ready pro­vid­ing fund­ing at op­ti­mum lev­els while still in­clud­ing a cush­ion for a po­ten­tial eco­nomic down­turn.

“It’s ob­serv­able in this county that Route 301 is quite an anoma­lous piece of road,” said Wil­son. “On the Delaware side, it’s full of com­mer­cial (in­vest­ment), but on this side, it be­comes empty. Many of the busi­nesses there even­tu­ally closed. We have an es­ti­mated 7,000 ve­hi­cles pass­ing there now, and still noth­ing. Noth­ing in­di­cates an­other 7,000 (mo­torists) will change that.”

Com­mis­sion­ers con­cluded by ad­mit­ting that eco­nomic growth along Route 301 was pos­si­ble, but only un­der cir­cum­stances that took the re­al­i­ties of the Queen Anne’s County into con­sid­er­a­tion.

PHOTO BY KRISTIAN JAIME

From left, County Com­mis­sion­ers Mark An­der­son, Jim Mo­ran, Ste­vie Wil­son and Jack Wil­son hear the re­port by the Sage Pol­icy Group.

KRISTIAN JAIME

Queen Anne’s County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Man­ager Jean Fabi, right, looks on as Anir­ban Basu, CEO of Sage Pol­icy Group, de­liv­ers the eco­nomic re­port on Route 301.

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