Some Annapolis residents contend that a plan to give a nonelected panel authority over city development would sacrifice public oversight.
But some aldermen argue that such a board would save taxpayer dollars and generate local development.
Both sides had their say last night at a city council hearing on whether to allow the city to create a revenue authority, a nonelected body that would privately finance, operate and maintain expensive public projects.
"Revenue authorities help get projects to completion that otherwise might never be developed or financed," said David Funk, a Baltimore lawyer hired by the council to draft a charter amendment that would allow creation of a revenue authority.
The proposed charter amendment would only make it legal for the council to create a revenue authority. The council is expected to vote on the proposal in two weeks and can pass the measure by a simple majority of the nine-member council.
But some residents vowed to gather petitions and put the proposed charter amendment to a referendum if the city endorses the idea. All but one of the 12 residents who testified opposed the measure.
Even though the revenue authority would fund expensive public projects without using taxpayer dollars at the outset, critics said the city would lose because it never would collect the money generated by fees.
Ward 6 Republican Wayne C. Turner questioned whether a revenue authority is needed and said the city could lose money with such a board.
He pointed out that without a revenue authority, the city still is making money after building Gotts Court Garage.
The city paid $5 million at the outset, then broke even after three years and now makes a profit from parking fees, he said.
Other residents were concerned that language in the proposed enabling legislation would give the proposed revenue authority too much power.
Under the charter amendment, an Annapolis revenue authority would have the power to condemn property and decide what projects the city needs.
Resident Dan Masterson questioned why the council would want to lose any control over public projects.