Turning Crofton into an incorporated town might be a good idea at some point, Crofton residents seem to agree, but now isn't the time.
Those who spoke at a community association meeting Monday night agreed with a citizens' committee that studied the issue and concluded last month that while incorporation is a good idea, the time to pursue it isn't right, mainly because of the budget cuts affecting state and local governments.
A county government that already has suffered millions of dollars in losses in state aid may not support a move that threatens to extract more money from its coffers, they reasoned.
Crofton officials have suggested that incorporating into a town would give them more clout over planning and zoning issues and allow them to turn local property covenants into ordinances. They have complained about being left in the dark on new developments and major road changes.
While residents agreed that incorporation might be a good idea, they also were skeptical about spending another $1,500 on a detailed study.
"We have got to be progressive," said Hugh Seborg, who has lived in Crofton since 1975. "I do know that we can't control progress. The question is how we can better influence what goes on around us. I think there is a better way to focus than this incorporation thing."
The committee reports also said that incorporating only the tax district would be virtually useless because the issues affecting the community of 10,000, such as roads and new developments, are happening in the Greater Crofton and Gambrills area.
"We are at a crossroads," said 27-year resident Dave A. Espie Jr., a committee member. "This community is pretty much built out.People are well aware that we are seeing unchecked growth . . . and lack of planning."
He said one answer is to incorporate to gain more political influence. "I don't think that is a bad idea," but he said without expanding the incorporated boundaries, turning just the tax district into a city "means nothing" because it is the surrounding area "where our real problem is."
For 18 months, Crofton officials have been exploring the idea of incorporating into a town to increase their political clout, particularly in the areas of zoning and enforcing local regulations.
A comprehensive studied released in March by the Institute of Governmental Affairs at the University of Maryland at College Park found that by incorporating, the community could nearly eliminate its property tax of 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and still raise $200,000 more than its annual budget of $550,000 by gaining an increased share of state aid.
But the study also questioned whether county officials would countenance the loss to their coffers in an era of drastic cuts in state aid to localities.
And Monday night, members of the citizens' committee and residents cautioned that the numbers cited in the university's report are no longer accurate, especially with the new round of budget cuts aimed at eliminating another $500,000 state deficit.
Residents also questioned whether Crofton could save money by incorporating or whether the cost of city services would escalate beyond budget limitations.
The Crofton Civic Association now will have to decide whether it is worth it to pay for an additional university report that will look at the affects of incorporating the entire Crofton 21114 zip code area and parts of Gambrills.