Howard County's proposed adequate-facilities ordinance was hit with a barrage of criticism last night after having emerged unscathed in three public briefings and eight special briefings.
The earlier presentations were dress rehearsals. This was the real thing with voters and representatives of special interest groups telling the County Council what they like or dislike about the proposed legislation.
A 12-member commission of developers, civic leaders, school officials and county employees that has worked six hours a week on the measure for the past year wants the proposal approved without alteration.
Most who testified during last night's three-hour hearing wanted minor alterations. Some sought outright rejection of the measure.
Simpsonville resident Wilbur F. Coyle said the section of the measure calling for an excise tax on all residential and commercial construction would, if enacted, amount to double taxation.
The excise tax would be placed in a special fund and used for road projects anywhere in the county. The county would spend $2 for every $1 of excise tax when improving a road.
The excise tax "is like an engine to provide roads to support new construction," Glenelg resident Bernard P. Huddleston told the council. "As a taxpayer, I can't be comforted by this legislation. It doesn't make me feel good. It should, but it forces me to pay more taxes to support more development. And if I don't, they will develop anyway."
Huddleston was referring to a section of the legislation dealing with schools. It says that if an elementary school is 120 percent over capacity at the time a project would be completed, the development would be held up four years. After that, it could go forward even if the schools were still over capacity.
The bill's defenders say that a four-year waiting period would allow the county to prepare for new growth. But even some defenders are wary, however.
"Funding the proposed schools in the capital budget is essential for achieving adequate school facilities," said Nancy Hudson, supporting the legislation on behalf of the county PTA council.
"We are very concerned that the state and county fiscal problems may jeopardize this funding," she said.
The measure also requires developers to assure that nearby intersections can accommodate traffic generated by their proposed developments.
Farmer and longtime county resident Ridgely Jones told the council he had been swallowing growth long enough.
"The fact that there have been no big arguments [from developers] against" the proposed measure as there were against slow-growth measures proposed by the previous county administration "makes me feel developers want it," Jones said. "And if developers want it and the Chamber wants it, I'm pretty sure I don't want it."
Chamber of Commerce representative Lynn Robeson had earlier urged the council to pass the legislation without any significant amendments.
The council will hold a work session on the proposal Jan. 27 and is expected to vote on it Feb. 3.