Yates decries rejection of referendum on tax Real estate levy would have funded farmland preservation

February 01, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Carroll Commissioner Richard T. Yates criticized the county's General Assembly delegation yesterday for rejecting a referendum on a proposed tax that would have helped pay for farmland preservation. The controversial measills the delegation rejected.

The tax would have raised about $2.5 million a year for farmland preservation and infrastructure improvements.

"I'm upset about it," Mr. Yates said. "They're telling the people of this county that they shouldn't vote on a proposal that is of much interest. Any time a politician comes out and says, 'I know better than the voter,' I think they're wrong. This was a wonderful chance to find out from the voters themselves about what they want."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he was not surprised that the delegation failed to support the bill, noting that some members raised concerns about the proposed tax at several public meetings.

"Knowing the position citizens took with the last election, it's pretty hard to get anybody to talk about taxes," Mr. Dell said.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster Republican who is chairman of the county delegation, said lawmakers were unanimous in their opposition to the proposal because of their belief that the public doesn't want new taxes.

"I basically have a problem with a new tax," Mr. Haines said. "We had a referendum on taxes in 1994. Seventy-two percent of the county voted for Ellen Sauerbrey for governor. Her theme was no more taxes."

Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, also a Republican, said the delegation's stance mirrored public opposition at a hearing on the legislative proposals Saturday.

The delegation also rejected measures that would have:

* Given the commissioners veto authority over the Planning Commission.

* Allowed the county to join the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.

* Allowed the Planning Commission to reject site plans for proposed developments when adequate public facilities were not available.

Mr. Yates also criticized the delegation's decision on those proposals. He sought veto authority over the Planning Commission because of concern that members of the panel, who are appointed by the commissioners, might take positions on growth issues that went against the commissioners'.

The delegation disagreed.

"The commissioners appoint their own planning commission, and they've increased the number [of members] from five to seven," Mr. Haines said. "For them to have veto power is giving the commissioners total power over a commission they appoint. There was never any testimony supporting the bill."

Neither Mr. Dell nor Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown supported the measure. Mr. Brown could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Among the proposals the delegation intends to introduce are bills that would:

* Waive the "declaration of intent" a forester must sign guaranteeing that a property where he is harvesting timber will not be developed for at least seven years.

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

* Allow the commissioners to audit for financial or performance purposes nonprofit organizations that receive county dollars.

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