A proposal that recommends sweeping changes in how the Crofton special tax district operates got a favorable review Thursday night from the civic association.
Although numerous changes were recommended and the association got only halfway through the 33-page preliminary draft, members, in general, liked what they saw.
But the 3 1/2-hour meeting started with tensions running high.
The three-member bylaw committee, which has spent a year drafting the revisions, was hit with criticism even before its members could start explaining their work.
"The rail you are trying to run is totally out of order," said association member Jerry Kull. "You have things in there that don't belong in this document."
But as the night progressed, association members were able to pass over potentially divisive issues with relative ease: reducing the board of directors from13 to nine -- and the number of election districts from six to five -- and allowing business people and developers owning land in Croftonto be elected officers.
The board postponed discussion on anothercontroversial subject -- the power of the town manager -- until Oct.14.
Town Manager Jordan Harding has already expressed some concerns, saying the revisions decentralize town government by spreading authority to department heads while leaving no one in charge.
The civic association took no vote Thursday, but could decide at its next meeting whether to recommend the proposed bylaws to the general membership in November.
One of the major questions was whether property owners who do not live in Crofton have the right to vote and hold office.
Dennis Robin, an attorney and committee member, said it is highly unusual for a tax district to disallow property owners from voting.
Crofton allows all residents the right to vote. That means if a household has six occupants at least 18 years old, all six get one vote each.
But if the owner of the house lives in Florida, he cannot vote. Robin said that is unfair and amounts to taxation without representation because it gives the residents a say but not the owner, the one paying the taxes.
The proposed bylaw revisions make it clear that a property owner gets one vote for each non-connecting parcelunder his control.
That means someone who owns numerous parcels in different parts of Crofton would get one for each parcel owned. Also, if a piece of property is jointly owned, each owner would get one vote.
Corporations and legal partnerships also would get one vote for each non-connecting property in the tax district.
That set up an interesting scenario: The Crofton Civic Association is a corporation that owns land in the tax district; therefore, it would get a vote.
"If that is allowed, it would get a bit ridiculous," said association member Wade Elrod.
It also raises more serious questions. The proposed bylaws would allow corporations or developers owning land in Crofton to designate someone to vote for them.
The designee could be elected to the board of directors and become an officer.
Some members questioned whether that was wise, saying developers could control who sits on the board.
Civic association president Edwin Dosek said the owners of a large apartment complex could form a block and control a district and get a representative who lives in New York on the Crofton board.
But Robin dismissed that concern, saying there are only 30 major business owners in the tax district.
"You could have a . . . lawyer from New York City. And he could be a CPA and bring evil into the community," he said jokingly. "And 800 people living in the Keswick Apartments could stack the vote. But it is relatively remote."
He said that risk is worth allowing corporate representatives have a say.
"I don't see why they should be left out, especially when the tax district exists because of their contributions,"he said.
While most tax districts -- which are corporations -- allow property owners to vote and hold office, they do not have the broad municipal-type powers that the Crofton board has.
"You are truly a unique body," Robin said. "You are unique as tax districts go."
Dosek, who had reservations about giving businesses owners votes, said after the meeting that it did not appear to be a major problem.
While he agreed it could pose conflict of interest charges, he agreed with Robin that practically speaking, developers or corporate representatives will not become board members or officers.