Panel vote favors raises

Commission urging $125,000 starting pay for Robey's successor

Executive `way underpaid'

County Council OKs array of development and zoning measures

Howard County

November 06, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A spate of development-related bills spanning everything from limiting building around crowded schools to zoning rule changes to help farmers were approved by the Howard County Council last night, while next door a commission decided the next county executive should earn $125,000 to start.

The seven-member Compensation Review Commission also voted to use the Consumer Price Index to determine annual cost-of-living pay raises for the next executive and council. Council pay would start at $35,000 next term, a $1,200 increase.

The County Council has final say on the recommendations, but it can only reduce, not increase them. A resolution detailing the changes likely will be introduced in December for a January vote.

The executive's pay raise would be a significant increase over the $98,500 County Executive James N. Robey will get, starting next month. The proposal would put the Howard executive's pay in line with that of executives of larger areas, such as Baltimore County

"The [Howard] position is way underpaid," said Charles E. Weller, commission chairman.

The panel's other members agreed - though one, John Nuffer, favored starting pay of $120,000 for the next executive and wanted set dollar-amount raises each year instead of inflation-tied percentages.

"I want to get the executive where he or she needs to be at the end of the next term," said commission member Korva Coleman, referring to a projected 2006 salary of about $130,000.

As the commission met, the County Council convened next door in Ellicott City's George Howard Building, voting on bills to loosen zoning restrictions on uses of agricultural land to give farmers more options for earning a living.

The council also voted to adopt a chart limiting home building around elementary and middle schools projected to have enrollments of 115 percent or more of their rated capacity by 2004, and to set out the powers of a new Board of Appeals hearing examiner. The examiner's hiring could be delayed until summer, however, while the county works out rules of procedure.

After the voting session, the council also held a public hearing on the proposed plan to alter County Council district boundaries for next year's elections. Redistricting occurs every 10 years, after each national census.

Democrats favored a plan that would minimally shift the lines, keeping population growth since 1990 proportional while reinforcing chances to keep their 3-2 majority on the five-member body. Republicans cried foul, claiming that Democrats are unfairly "packing" GOP voters into two districts.

The zoning rule changes provoked the most controversy over the past month, with residents of Glenwood working to block plans of a veterinarian who wants to build a hospital for large animals on land preserved by clustering homes on one part of a tract. In the southeastern county, residents of Fulton opposed allowing a pick-your-own farm operation near their homes, arguing that it would attract too much traffic.

Council members submitted a raft of amendments, including one by Western county Republican Allan H. Kittleman to limit farm stands and pick-your-own farms to those with access from larger collector roads, not residential ones.

Kittleman also blocked the large-animal hospital, despite the arguments of veterinarian Stuart Scheinberg that it would be a perfect use of rural land for a badly needed service.

Those two proposals passed on 3-2 votes.

The council rejected Kittleman's attempt to further restrict the number of houses allowed under density-exchange options, however, fearing it would cripple the program that allows housing density to be transferred from rural land to other parcels in more developed areas. Also rejected were Kittleman's proposals to eliminate some uses allowed on so-called "preservation parcels."

The vote adopting a chart listing which elementary and middle schools will be open to development in 2004 and which will be closed was unanimous.

The chart adopted last night would stop planning for new homes around 10 elementary schools, as well as near Elkridge Landing, Dunloggin and Patapsco Middle schools in 2004. The law regulates building three years ahead to give the county and builders time to adjust and solve crowding.

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