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Pentagon's installations plan might have impact in Howard

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The possible addition of more than 5,000 military and civilian jobs at Fort Meade under the Pentagon's shakeup of military bases is likely to put pressure on an already tight local housing market and further boost economic growth over the border in Howard County, local officials say.

The impact would be indirect - the Army base is in Anne Arundel County, a few miles from the Howard County line - but officials expect to see workers buying homes in Howard County, where local restrictions allow 1,750 homes to be built each year.

Because that housing allocation cap acts as a brake on growth, officials are confident that the area's roads and schools will be able to cope with the effects of a larger work force at Fort Meade.

"I have no concerns, I really don't," County Executive James N. Robey said. "I'm more happy that we're going to see, I think, a significant increase in community development and jobs in Howard County, and the entire region, too, which is important."

The Pentagon announced Friday that Maryland would gain thousands of new jobs while losing just a handful of small installations under a restructuring of the country's military bases.

In addition to the new jobs at Fort Meade, Harford County's Aberdeen Proving Ground would gain 2,100 jobs and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda would add nearly 1,900.

Fort Meade officials say the estimated 5,361 employees likely to be added at that post include 682 military workers, 2,915 civilians and 1,764 contractors.

Some of the newcomers to Fort Meade would be from New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts and Arizona - and some may hope to take up residence in Howard.

"It doesn't change the number of homes we build just because more people want to come here," said County Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat. "What it will probably do is help escalate the housing market even further."

Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director, said that while there already are more people who want to live in the county than can find homes here, the county does not expect to raise its limit of housing allocations.

David C. Drown, the Howard County school district's demographer, said school officials will evaluate the possible implications of the additional jobs leading to more students in the school system.

"Obviously, if you put a population of 5,000 ... 15 miles from your border, there is a good likelihood that they will seek housing in your county," Drown said. "There could be potential of that showing up in our student enrollment."

In addition to increasing housing demand, the added workers likely will fuel the local economy.

"Residential purchases, consumer shopping ... all of that could be impacted by a [job] increase of that magnitude so near us," said Paul Skalny, board chairman of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said that businesses near Fort Meade are certain to prosper.

"Howard County is in the first circle from the [base] ... and we will see many businesses wanting to be near Fort Meade, and we'll see no downturn in the demand in the foreseeable future," he said.

Sun staff writers Hanah Cho, Liz Kay, Tyrone Richardson and Childs Walker contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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