Voting delay is likely on rec authority Amendments sought to limit powers of revenue agency

'Open-ended nature' of bill

Gary administration, which proposed plan, opposes changes

February 03, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The County Council is likely to delay voting tonight on whether to form Anne Arundel's first private agency responsible for raising money for public recreation projects.

Republican Diane L. Evans, who is chairwoman of the council, said she plans to introduce at least one amendment that would limit the Recreational Revenue Authority.

"I've been very concerned from the beginning about its open-ended nature," Evans said during a council work session Friday morning. "My preference would be that the bill focus on one or two recreational facilities."

Evans said she would introduce a second amendment prohibiting the agency from creating facilities for gambling.

Any amendment will require a new public hearing and delay a vote until at least Feb. 18.

Representatives of County Executive John G. Gary, who introduced the legislation to the council in November, said changes are unnecessary.

"The administration is very pleased with the bill as it stands right now," said Sam Minnitte, Gary's chief of staff.

The bill would create a nine-member board, appointed by the county executive, with the power to issue bonds, raise money from the private sector and operate as a semi-independent entity.

At a meeting last month, council members wondered aloud how the revenue authority would be held accountable and whether the county government should be establishing an enterprise that might take business away from the private sector.

Several area chambers of commerce have objected to the bill because it would give residents only 90 days before the beginning of each fiscal year to review the authority's proposed operating and capital budgets and its program.

"It doesn't encourage the voicing of opinions on certain projects until we get to the public hearings," said Sheila Schneider, executive director of the Greater Crofton Chamber of Commerce. "We're still opposed to it."

The agency would be responsible for getting swimming pools, ice rinks and other projects built that the county cannot afford, Minnitte said.

"There is a lot of pressure and need to build recreational facilities," he said. "The authority would have the potential to do so without using taxpayer dollars."

Golf-course owners opposed

The most vociferous opponents of the bill have been private golf course owners. The authority is designed to pay for renovations at Eisenhower Golf Course on Generals Highway in Annapolis, but the agency would also be expected to raise funds for a second county-run course on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena.

Local golf course owners argue that the legislation would give municipal-owned courses a business advantage.

"Once it's built and going, they're not going to be paying taxes, and they're not going to be giving their fair share of tax revenue to the county," said Russ Rose, whose family has owned Bay Hills Golf Course in Arnold for 28 years. "That makes it unfair competition."

Rose also cited statistics released by the National Golf Foundation that showed the number of rounds played in 1992 and 1995 dropped from 505 million to 490 million.

"My point is that [golf interest has] leveled off," he said. "We just can't build an unlimited number of golf courses and expect it to work. It's not going to happen."

Unaffordable fees

But Minnitte said that the expensive greens fees of private golf courses exclude those who are retired or on fixed incomes.

"For them, $60 or $70 for one round of golf is out of the question," he said. The county-run courses "would serve that segment of the market that can't afford that."

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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