Cuts proposed in reviews of development Municipalities might lose county assistance if planning staff pared

'These are drastic times'

Mayor says towns aren't ready to handle project services

March 27, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Just as the county and Carroll's eight municipalities have come to an agreement on large increases in development review fees, the whole program could fall under the budget ax.

Site plans, permits, engineering and inspections, which the county provides for the towns, could be cut along with other services as part of a broad package of budget-trimming measures that the County Commissioners are considering to deal with a projected $5 million shortfall.

Two weeks after the towns agreed to pay an enormous increase -- as much as 800 percent -- in the fees, the county is talking about eliminating a development review coordinator from its planning staff. The development review coordinator is one of seven positions that could be eliminated to pare $30,000 from the planning budget for the 1997 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Philip J. Rovang, Carroll's planning director, said the county has a responsibility to review development in the community planning areas surrounding the towns. If the proposed cuts and the loss of one position occur, the towns would have to conduct the reviews on their own, he said.

"To maintain town review services, reviews would increase from 23 to 34 per month per reviewer," said Mr. Rovang. "At that level, we couldn't get anything done. We recognized [that] it would be humanly impossible to do both areas. Even if the towns' reviews were eliminated, each county reviewer would deal with 29 reviews per month, he said.

Without a development review coordinator, the towns would be scrambling to do review services, said New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. The coordinator has been instrumental in helping the towns move its subdivisions through the review process, he said.

"We're trying to lay out the picture," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said at budget hearings last week. The proposed budget cuts are "working papers," only proposals, he said.

This month, the towns agreed to start paying the increases as of July 1, six months later than county officials had wanted and a year after developers in Carroll's unincorporated areas began paying increased fees for county services.

Under the present fee structure, the owner of a 50-lot subdivision is charged about $58 per lot for review services. The new fees would boost costs about $500 per lot, an increase which likely would be passed on to homebuyers.

Mr. Gullo said the towns are not prepared to handle their own development reviews.

"I am sure the county would forewarn the towns and try to work with them," said Mr. Rovang. "We would not just drop them. We would try to work out a transition period."

Sykesville's town manager, Matthew H. Candland, said the county planning staff helps local projects run smoothly. Three months wouldn't be enough time for the towns to adjust to providing those same services, he said.

"We have good communication with the county and would hate to lose them as a partner in the development process," Mr. Candland said.

"These are drastic times, and we have to balance budgets," he said. "Obviously, we are concerned, but we respect the fact the county has tough decisions to make."

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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