Growth panel wants standards backed by money

December 19, 1990|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,Evening Sun Staff

The state's growth commission will recommend that Gov. William Donald Schaefer abandon legislation requiring uniform land-use standards statewide unless funds can be found to help implement the program.

Capping a four-hour meeting yesterday -- during which commission members openly and sometimes heatedly disagreed -- the panel of developers, environmental activists and state officials voted 12 to 7 to recommend that Schaefer make any growth management legislation contingent on funding.

The commission postponed until Jan. 2 making a decision on whether the governor should be counseled to abandon any effort to have a growth management bill passed during the 1991 General Assembly session, regardless of funding.

Some county elected and planning officials have called for such a delay so the bill's impact can be studied.

But Michael D. Barnes, the commission chairman, citing his determination to see a bill reach the General Assembly in 1991, cautioned the commission members not to overreact to opponents.

"You can't do what we want to do for the future of this state and have everybody like it," Barnes said. "If we end up with a bill that everybody likes, I submit to you that we will have accomplished nothing."

A draft bill before the commission would impose restrictions on growth statewide as a means of protecting Chesapeake Bay from further pollution.

In essence, the bill would require Baltimore and the 23 counties to place all land into one of four land-use categories with specific growth restrictions for each. The jurisdictions would then submit those plans to state planning officials for approval.

The funding issue centers on whether the state will make money available to local jurisdictions to build roads, schools, sewer lines and other public facilities in areas targeted for intense development under the plan.

Several local officials have questioned whether the state would provide such money or force local governments to foot the costs of implementing the program.

No specific funding has been proposed by the commission, but questions about money carry considerable weight in light of the state's current financial problems, which recently prompted Schaefer to temporarily freeze funding for all state road projects.

Opponents of the commission's draft bill include the Maryland Association of Counties, which is asking that the bill not be proposed to the General Assembly until 1992.

The calls for delay, which were expressed repeatedly during a public hearing the commission held Saturday, were coupled with specific concerns raised about aspects of the legislation.

A series of amendments to the bill were presented to the commission yesterday in an effort to address those concerns. Some amendments were approved, while others were delayed until the Jan. 2 meeting.

The amendments approved include:

* A provision that would allow subdivisions approved before July 1, 1991, to proceed even if the development does not comply with new growth management guidelines.

* An assurance the state will place no limits on the amount of land a county can designate for commercial and industrial development.

* A statement that proposed subdivisions would not be subject to state Office of Planning approval.

* Includes cultural, historical and archaeological resources as things the state has an interest in protecting through land-use planning.

Members of the commission yesterday openly argued over whether the bill should be delayed or what amendments should be applied to respond to critics.

And in a rare moment of public acrimony, even Schaefer aides and Cabinet members squared off against each other.

At one point, Jacqueline H. Rogers, state secretary of housing and community development, said she could not support the proposed legislation unless funding was included.

The remark brought a strong response from David Carroll, Schaefer's environmental aide, who said that decisions involving funding were best left to the governor.

"Debating and second guessing is wasting time," Carroll said.

J. Randall Evans, who heads the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, also disagreed with Rogers over the funding issue. Evans said attempts to make the bill contingent on funds, seemed like "another way of delaying a decision on going forward with the bill."

Rogers deflected questions about the disagreements among Schaefer Cabinet members at yesterday's meeting.

"There are six Cabinet members and all will be giving advice to the governor," Rogers said. "I was speaking for Jacqueline Rogers, period."

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