Crofton town hall must be open to all Crofton plan is a reasonable remedy, not a 'Trojan Horse'

September 22, 1995

RESIDENTS OF the Crofton taxing district who don't want to build an addition to their town hall if other neighboring community groups will be able to use the facility are looking pretty small.

Most everyone in the western Anne Arundel community acknowledges something must be done about the town hall because it is not accessible to the handicapped. Prevented by the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act from holding meetings at the hall, Crofton now uses other facilities that are accessible.

Meetings, however, are not the only problem. If a person in a wheelchair showed up to pay a bill, he wouldn't be able to get inside the building. Town leaders say they looked at the cost of minimal changes -- installation of a ramp and elevator -- but found they would eat up a lot of space. So they're recommending a $70,000 renovation that includes whatever changes will bring them into compliance with federal law, plus an addition. The plan seems reasonable.

But not to some residents. They hit the roof when town leaders unveiled the idea this week, accusing them of using the ADA as a "Trojan Horse" to fund an addition. And what would be so bad about an addition? Other community groups which aren't in the taxing district and thus wouldn't help pay for it might be allowed to use it, the critics said.

It's true, residents of the taxing district pay more in order to enjoy services that non-district residents don't have. Still, Crofton consists of more than just the taxing district. If a town hall exists, it seems petty and a waste of resources to deny other community groups -- which currently have problems finding places to meet -- the chance to use it.

If taxing district residents are so worried about letting their neighbors get something for nothing, it would be a simple enough matter to charge a small fee for use of the building. Regardless, this project won't cost residents much. The town manager figures a 15-year, $75,000 loan will cost each household $5 a year, for a total of $75. In a community where every other driveway features a BMW, it's hard to understand why people would be so angry at the thought of paying a few dollars for a town hall that someone else occasionally might enjoy.

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