Delegation eyes parking-tax bonanza on spots near proposed Laurel stadium

January 20, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Howard County's state lawmakers agreed yesterday to hold a hearing on legislation that would let the county impose a tax on any parking space in the county near a proposed new football stadium in Laurel.

"If the stadium is built, this bill perhaps would give Howard County an opportunity for some revenue from the stadium," said Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13B, who proposed the last-minute bill to the county's delegation.

His comments came as the delegation voted on whether to consider three late bills and other pending legislation, including extension of a 5 percent room tax due to expire in June and a bill that would clear the way for a brewery pub-restaurant.

In defending the parking tax, which would apply only on the day of an event, Mr. Madden argued that the county should get its share of economic benefit from the 78,600-seat stadium proposed by Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke next to the Laurel race course.

Washington Redskins representatives have said that some of the stadium's parking lots would be built in Howard County. Revenue from those lots could help offset the cost of road improvements and other public works required by the project, said Mr. Madden.

Several delegation members questioned whether the bill would be premature, and warned that it could prompt a wide-ranging, emotional debate about the merits of building a National Football League stadium.

But Del. John S. Morgan, R-13B, said the proposal is timely because decisions currently are being made about revenue-sharing arrangements involving a stadium.

"We want to be in a strong position," he said.

Delegation members agreed to hold a hearing on the bill, even though it was proposed late in the formal process for reviewing county legislation.

In other business, the delegation agreed to hold a hearing on a bill that would let three business partners start a micro-brewery in the county, possibly in Savage.

The legislation, yet to be drafted, would allow the county to grant a license letting them brew up to 10,000 barrels of beer per year on the premises.

The state first would have to make such a license available to the county.

Mark Gibson, a Columbia resident, said the partners actually expect to brew and serve up to 3,000 barrels per year at a restaurant that would be similar to establishments in Baltimore and Annapolis.

The third late measure that the delegation agreed to hear, the 5 percent room rental tax, is due to expire June 30. It currently produces about $1 million per year for the county, according to Raymond Wacks, county budget administrator.

In other business yesterday, lawmakers rejected a proposal drafted by County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, on behalf of mobile homeowners seeking to buy the land under their homes.

The bill would have given a mobile homeowners' cooperative or the county government a "right of first purchase" when the land is put up for sale by a private owner.

Owners of mobile homes currently rent lots.

Several delegation members said the proposal was impractical and could deter developers from creating more mobile home lots for lower-income homebuyers.

The delegation also approved a bill that would raise the county sheriff's salary from $38,000 to $44,000 over four years -- about 4 percent per year.

In doing so, it rejected an earlier version that would have let the County Council set the salary, in accordance with recommendations from the Compensation Review Commission.

"The Compensation Review Commissions I've been involved with have been overly generous," said Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, D-13, who urged that the delegation maintain control over the salary.

A public hearing will be held on the parking tax, the room tax and brewery legislation, among other issues, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

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