Council To Adopt District Boundaries Previewed In Hearing

November 03, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

The skirmishing is over, and the County Council's self-imposed deadline for redrawing district boundaries has arrived.

The map the council is to adopt tomorrow, while virtually identical to the one the council put out for public hearing last month, may still hold some surprises.

Two relatively minor changes were suggested at last week's work session, but others could come as late as just before the vote tomorrow night.

The first change, endorsed by Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, and council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, would keep Highland in the 5th District -- a suggestion several people made at last week's redistricting hearing.

The second, proposed by Gray, would swap the Mount Hebron precinct originally put in the 2nd District with the Bethany Manor precinct originally put in the 5th.

Neither Darrel Drown, R-2nd, nor Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, have had much say in the process other than to protest the way their three Democratic colleagues on the council have conducted the redistricting.

Still, "it could have been worse," Feaga says.

By law, the council must redraw district lines by next March to reflect population changes recorded in the 1990 Census.

The council is also expected to cast its first vote everagainst inclusion of a property into the county's farmland preservation program.

Individual council members have grumbled in the past about buying development rights of certain properties, but none has ever voted against a preservation board recommendation that a propertybe accepted into the program.

The specific problem with bringing Henry Marshall's Clarksville property of up to 65 acres into the program, council members said, is that it is small and isolated from other properties in the program.

The rejection of the Marshall property is in keeping with the concern of some members that the program might run out of money long before the county achieves its goal of preserving 30,000 acres. Council members called on the preservation board to focus on large parcels and to be more selective in accepting properties.

In addition, Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said the county may need to use the preservation program's $16 million balance to help get past the current fiscal crisis.

Delegate Virginia M. Thomas, D-13A, announced Tuesday that she has drafted emergency legislation that, if enacted by the General Assembly, will allow the county executiveto transfer up to 50 percent of the preservation fund balance to other uses.

The county suffered a $25 million deficit in fiscal year 1991, laid off 40 workers, cut its fiscal 1992 budget by 12 percent and is still facing a $9.5 million net deficit. The new fiscal year began July 1.

The administration has asked the council for permission to furlough employees as a budget-reducting measure. An emergency bill authorizing furloughs will be introduced at tomorrow's legislative session.

The difference between an emergency bill and a regular bill is that emergency bills take effect immediately. Regular bills take effect 60 days after passage.

Another piece of council legislation expected to draw attention tomorrow is an emergency bill barringmobile home park owners from retroactively requiring security deposits from residents who

have lived in the parks for more than a year. Residents who agreed to security deposits and subsequent increases in them as a condition of their leases are not covered by the bill.

A second piece of mobile home park emergency legislation will be introduced tomorrow. If enacted, the bill will allow mobile home ownersto obtain low-interest loans to renovate their homes or transport them to a new site.

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