Support found to make a town

Commissioner gives encouragement to incorporation effort

Most populated area

March 22, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier gave her support last night to a fledgling effort to incorporate Eldersburg, Carroll County's most populated area.

"I have no opposition to a group of people wanting to form a municipality," Frazier said. "If they can get the community to agree and the votes they need I can support it."

Frazier addressed members of Freedom Area Planning Council, which serves as an unofficial link between South Carroll communities -- principally Eldersburg -- and county government.

The council has asked the county to appoint a liaison to help with legal and technical aspects of incorporation. The drive to make Eldersburg the county's ninth municipality would require a petition signed by 25 percent of voters in the area, where the population is nearly 30,000.

If the petition drive succeeds, a committee would be appointed to write a town charter. Public hearings, reviews, reports and a referendum would be held.

If the referendum succeeds, the county commissioners have the final say on incorporation. It must be approved by two of the three board members.

Maryland has 156 incorporated municipalities but, in the past 41 years, only five areas have successfully incorporated. Most of those new towns were neighborhood communities smaller than Eldersburg.

"If I lived here, I wouldn't want the extra tax for additional services," Frazier said. "But as a commissioner, I would find it hard to turn down a good plan for incorporation."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell has previously said that he opposes incorporation,but in addition to Frazier, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge is lending her support.

"I think that it's positive all the way," Gouge said. "The advantages are that Eldersburg would have control over its own planning and zoning."

Gouge noted that incorporation efforts must overcome many obstacles.

"They will have to take one step at a time and have the votes from people to support it," Gouge said. "People have to know it will cost them more."

Residents of incorporated towns pay a municipal property tax in addition to a county tax. They would elect a mayor and town council and could provide services, such as police protection and trash collection, and maintain control over planning and zoning.

Westminster Councilman Kevin Dayhoff said: "Only one-third of the Westminster budget is funded by a property tax, and the services we get are a steal. It's extra cost-effective, and that is true for towns throughout the state."

The meeting was limited to questions and answers, with the moderator discouraging debate. Several people, however, did comment.

"The reality of this is there will be extra taxes," said Doug Ilioff, a resident of Sykesville. "If people see taxes going up, will you be able to get 25 percent to sign a petition and more than 50 percent to approve it?"

Eldersburg, a planned growth area for the county, is often noted as an example of rampant development. Infrastructure has not kept pace with growth. Its schools and roads are crowded, and it is subjected to seasonal water shortages.

"There are a lot of services that South Carroll wants that the county cannot afford to provide," Frazier said. "We can't tax the entire county to provide those services. With incorporation, they can set up a taxing structure and plan for what they like."

Demographically, South Carroll is the wealthiest area of the county and can afford the additional taxes, Frazier said.

"I think there are many in South Carroll who would be willing to pitch in the money necessary to get incorporation," she said.

The Freedom council has taken no stand on incorporation. Its role is to educate citizens.

"We want to inform people who live here and help make sure this neighborhood stays a neighborhood," Mike Naused said. "Wake up and smell the concrete. I don't think you moved here to see strip shopping centers on every corner and a traffic light every 100 feet."

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