Council cancels dead-end plan for Trotter Road Added traffic will pose hazard, residents say

December 08, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The County Council voted unanimously last night to amend the 1990 General Plan and let residents in Columbia's newest village use Trotter Road as an escape route.

Until last night, the General Plan had called for Trotter Road to become a dead end on both sides of a rerouted Route 32 that is yet to be built.

Residents in the Pheasant Ridge neighborhood of River Hill -- Columbia's newest village -- had told the council that unless the southern portion of Trotter Road was kept open, their children would be transferred to new schools and they would be endangered in an emergency.

Trotter Road residents said they had been promised that the road would be closed. To keep it open and increase the volume on it by 3,000 trips a day past their homes would put imperil their safety, they said.

Although the council was unconvinced by that argument, none of its members seemed comfortable changing something they had agreed to two years earlier.

"This project has been very difficult for me," said Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, author of the amendment to open Trotter Road to Pheasant Hill residents.

When it became clear that a parallel road and other connections to Pheasant Ridge from a new Route 32 would not be built soon, residents in the new neighborhood appealed to Mr. Farragut for help. "I tried to get together different sides" to work out a compromise, he said, but to no avail.

Mr. Farragut said he intended to help mitigate use of Trotter Road by designating it a scenic road and by working to ban construction traffic from the road as soon as Pheasant Ridge is completed.

The council added amenments to his bill that would encourage the county, the state and the developer to regulate and minimize construction traffic on Trotter Road and to change the name of the road linking Trotter Road with Sunrise Drive to Great Star Drive. A third amendmentment called on the state, the county and the developer to expedite construction of Route 32 and Great Star Drive.

"I grew up with some of these people" on Trotter Road, said Charles C. Feaga, R-5th. "I don't sympathize with people building [in the new village] and then telling us how difficult it is to get out." Regardless, Mr. Feaga said, he was voting for the connection, not for the present but for "future generations."

In other action last night, the council:

* Elected Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, chairwoman and Mr. Farragut vice chairman; C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, Zoning Board chairman and Mr. Farragut vice chairman; Darrel Drown, R-2nd, Liquor Board chairman and Mr. Feaga vice chairman.

* Put a 5 percent cap on property assessment increases.

* Approved the Board of Education's capital budget for fiscal 1994 and its five-year improvement program through fiscal 1999.

* Tabled the planning department's proposed new subdivision regulations until after the council can review them at a 1:30 p.m. work session Thursday.

Allowed religious institutions that rent rather than own their property to receive a property tax credit.

The tax credit bill led to a flare-up between Mr. Gray and Mr. Drown, one of its sponsors.

Mr. Gray said the bill does not have a public purpose and is not related to public policy. The bill gives government a role in what appears to be a private concern between religious institutions, Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Drown and Ms. Pendergrass, the other sponsor of the bill, had argued that the measure puts religious institutions that rent on the same footing for tax purposes with religious institutions that own property.

Mr. Gray argued that the bill was "a clear violation of the establish ment [of religion] clause in the Constitution, that religious institutions have substantial tax benefits already and that the bill would put an additional administrative burden on local government, causing it to regulate a private concern.

"For someone who has fought for equity all your life, I would have though you would have been a little more attuned," Mr. Drown told Mr. Gray.

Mr. Drown said administrative costs would be small because the bill would affect only three organizations. It might help lessen the county's 30 percent vacancy rate in commercial buildings, he said, by encouraging other religious institutions to rent space in them.

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