Neall vetoes bills for benefit districts

November 25, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall yesterday vetoed two bills passed by the County Council last week establishing community benefit districts, saying it was unclear whether they complied with federal regulations requiring access for the disabled.

Mr. Neall vetoed the bills creating the districts at Rugby Hall Estates in Arnold and Cedarhurst-on-the-Bay in Shady Side on the advice of County Attorney Judson P. Garrett Jr.

The districts assess members of the community a set tax to pay for improvements, such as roads, piers and other recreational amenities, pest control and security.

Mr. Garrett said an opponent of the proposed districts called him, saying that the districts must abide by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and that he planned to sue the county if they were created.

On checking the law, Mr. Garrett said he found "it specifically applies to special districts created by state or local government." Any improvements paid for by the special tax district, like a fishing or crabbing pier, must be accessible to the disabled.

He checked further with the U.S. Justice Department. "They confirmed what we thought, and they had no doubt about it," he said.

"The ADA might present unforeseen subsequent costs or liabilities, and I think that should be answered before these districts are actually created," Mr. Garrett said.

Mr. Neall wrote to Council President David G. Boschert late yesterday: "I have found it necessary to veto these bills in order to give the council, the administration, the affected associations and the taxpayers in the proposed districts the opportunity to assess fully the potential costs and liabilities associated with the creation of these districts.

"If those assessments demonstrate no unacceptable costs or risks to the County or the taxpayers," Mr. Neall wrote, "I will be happy to support the override of the vetoes or the passage of successor legislation, whichever is appropriate."

Mr. Garrett said the county legal staff will also be going out to the 42 established benefits districts and assessing the costs and legal liabilities associated with them.

Earlier this month, a group of Cape St. Claire residents argued before the Court of Appeals that the county's special tax districts are illegal because they force people to pay for private projects with public funds.

The issue of ADA compliance should not have an effect on the case before the Court of Appeals, Mr. Garrett said.

The County Council will have an opportunity to override Mr. Neall's veto at its December 6 meeting.

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