Residents urge vote on request for tax County legislators cool to referendum for land transfer levy

January 28, 1996|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

Carroll County residents largely agreed at a hearing on local General Assembly legislation yesterday that they want a chance to vote in a referendum on whether to adopt a county real estate transfer tax.

About 50 people attended the morning session at the county office building, where Carroll's six-member legislative delegation solicited comment on 19 bills proposed by county agencies.

The bill drawing the most interest -- calling for a referendum on enactment of a 1 percent transfer tax -- had only one supporter in the Annapolis delegation: Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty of Manchester. County Commissioners proposed the tax and the referendum.

Mr. Getty did not indicate his position on the tax -- only that he favored putting the choice in the hands of county voters.

"Whether we agree with the issue or not, shouldn't we all let the public speak?" asked Mr. Getty. "A referendum heightens public debate."

No one else in the delegation agreed, with members saying they oppose raising taxes.

"I've never voted for a tax increase, and I'm going to leave this delegation never voting for a tax increase," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Westminster Democrat who was elected state treasurer Jan. 19.

He is to resign from the General Assembly by Wednesday.

Many residents said they would willingly pay the tax as long as the money went to programs they supported.

Under the proposal, money raised through the transfer tax would be spent on farmland preservation and improvements to the county's infrastructure, such as roads, sewer systems and schools. The voters would decide the issue during the general election in November.

Several people addressing the tax bill debated how the money should be used.

"The priority in this county should be school construction," said Greg Dorsey of Sykesville, adding that farmland should be preserved without raising taxes. "The money in ag land preservation isn't producing something new, it's saving what's old."

Others defended the farm program, saying it preserves the rural environment many people admired when they moved to Carroll.

"We look at this not as a tax, but a one-time fee to help keep Carroll County the way we want it," said Glenn D. Shirley, a member of the Carroll County Farm Bureau.

Residents and the delegation also debated the state's forest conservation law yesterday as they considered a bill that would waive the "declaration of intent" a forester must sign guaranteeing that a property being harvested will not be developed for at least seven years.

Those opposed to the declaration say it infringes on the rights of property owners to develop their land. Supporters say the declaration prevents developers from bypassing the forest conservation law by harvesting the larger trees, leaving only saplings to be replaced when the property is developed.

Among the remaining proposals, most of which received little comment, were measures that would:

* Allow nonprofit agencies that receive county money to take advantage of county purchasing contracts.

* Let the Carroll County Health Department set aside $10 from each soil percolation test fee for a grant program paying for innovative sewage-disposal systems.

* Permit a property owner to advertise unrecorded lots for sale in commercial and industrial districts.

Residents also raised few concerns about the nine liquor board proposals, which included measures that would:

* Allow restaurants with beer and wine licenses to serve alcohol on Sundays.

* Allow restaurants to serve liquor at a bar or counter on Sundays.

* Permit the liquor board to check criminal backgrounds of liquor license applicants.

* Ban drive-through windows at package goods stores.

* Allow restaurants with liquor licenses to hire youths 15 and older to clear tables and wash dishes. The proposal also would allow 18-year-olds to sell, serve and dispense alcohol; they now must be 21.

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