Tax bill pulled for lack of hearing Delegation members say Lineboro issue can wait until 1997

April 10, 1996|By JACKIE POWDER | JACKIE POWDER,SUN STAFF

Carroll's state lawmakers say they withdrew at the last minute a bill to create a special tax district to help pay for a wastewater treatment system in Lineboro because no public hearing was held on the proposal.

But County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who said the commissioners asked for the legislation at the request of Lineboro residents who are concerned about failing septic systems in the village, isn't buying that explanation.

"If it was a bill that had implications countywide, I'd say absolutely, there needs to be a hearing," Mr. Brown said. "They knew full well what it applied to. This was a group of citizens coming forward, and they should have addressed it that way."

Asked whether he thought the legislative delegation was delivering a payback to him and Commissioner Richard Yates for opposing a controversial land use bill backed by the lawmakers, Mr. Brown said, "I don't know what their motives are."

Mr. Brown has expressed strong opposition to a bill that will ease development restrictions on farmland and has criticized the delegation for not holding a public hearing on the legislation, which was sponsored by Republican Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster real estate agent who chairs the county's Annapolis delegation. The General Assembly passed the bill Monday.

Carroll legislators say their decision to withdraw Lineboro's tax district bill was based in part on the controversy surrounding the farmland development bill, which would allow up to four lots on agriculturally zoned land to be developed without meeting the county's adequate-facilities rules.

Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty said the farmland development bill was a response to the Carroll Planning Commission's "behind closed doors" decision to abandon a 20-year policy of exempting minor subdivisions and agricultural lots from adequate-facilities review.

"The commission had made a policy decision and had not had a public hearing," Mr. Getty said. "We were criticized on other bills for not having a public hearing, and for a combination of reasons we got cold feet and pulled the [Lineboro tax district] bill," Mr. Getty said.

"But it was not a direct move to flex muscle on the part of the delegation. We were very apprehensive about the Lineboro project from the start."

Mr. Brown said the Planning Commission did not conduct any illegal closed meetings.

"I think the real focus of concern ought to be where the people of Lineboro go now," he said.

Del. Donald B. Elliott, a Republican from New Windsor, said the delegation members concluded that the situation in Lineboro wasn't as dire as the commissioners had presented it.

"The feeling is we can wait until next year and have a hearing before the public," he said.

Concerned about the health risks associated with their failing septic systems, a group of Lineboro homeowners has formed a committee to develop an innovative wastewater treatment system. The Lineboro Environmental Wastewater Treatment Association, which recently received nonprofit status, is working with county officials to apply for state money to fund the project.

David Bowersox, the attorney for the Lineboro residents, said the creation of a special tax district would permit the county to collect taxes from the residents of the district to help pay for construction and upkeep of the system.

Enactment of the additional tax requires support in the form of a vote from two-thirds of the district residents.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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