Howard County Council members agreed at their work session yesterday to table several bills until next month, allowing time to review them again after getting the comprehensive rezoning bill out of the way.
Among the measures delayed was an administration bill that would give the county's 275 police officers a deferred pension option once they have 25 years' seniority. Western Howard Republican Allan H. Kittleman asked for more time to consider it.
FOR THE RECORD - An article Friday in the Howard County edition of The Sun should have said the Howard County Council discussed tabling a bill affecting police pensions at its Thursday work session, but did not agree to do so. Council members will vote on tabling this and other bills at tomorrow's legislative session. The Sun regrets the error.
"Frankly I'm a little concerned," he said when pressed by Jim Fitzgerald, president of the police union.
Kittleman said it was poor planning on the administration's part to submit the legislation "while we're in the throes of comprehensive rezoning."
Fitzgerald estimated about 19 officers would be eligible for the benefit, which has been a part of a long contract negotiation.
"It just seems like it's coming and it's never coming," he said.
The pension plan is similar, though not as lucrative, as those offered to officers in Baltimore, and in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.
Under the Howard plan, officers with 25 years' experience could agree to work three or four more years, freezing their pension at the 25-year level of 75 percent of their top three years' pay. When they stop working, they would get their accrued additional pension as a cash lump sum, which could exceed $200,000 for some.
The idea is to help retain veteran officers for a set amount of time, reducing recruitment needs while giving the officers a cash incentive. Because they agree to a 25-year pension and continue paying 11.6 percent of their salary toward pensions while remaining on the force, the plan will have no long-term added cost to the county, Howard officials have said.
Council members then reviewed amendments to the comprehensive rezoning bill, the culmination of more than a year's work refocusing the direction of development in the county. They expect to vote on the bill at their Monday meeting.
At the request of the council, several pairs of community and property owner representatives addressed the council about the progress of their negotiations on rezoning applications.
With developers' attorney David A. Carney, Michael Murphy of the Meadowridge Landing Homeowners' Association described covenants signed by his community that restrict the types of uses that would be allowed under revised zoning for a former Superfund site on Meadowridge Road near Interstate 95.
"They're not perfect from our standpoint, but we believe they're as good as they're going to get," Murphy said of the agreement regarding the site. What would be built there has not been decided.
Betsy McMillion of the Harwood Park Neighborhood Improvement Association and John L. Sindler, a commercial land broker, spoke about plans to keep wetlands immediately adjacent to her Elkridge community zoned residential while rezoning frontage along U.S. 1 as commercial to allow construction of a supermarket.
Carney later announced that the Lee Development Group has withdrawn its request for planned office research (POR) zoning on Livestock Road near Route 32 and Interstate 70.
In a moment of humor, Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon asked if Carney could change the developer's mind about withdrawing the rquest. POR zoning there works well with the philosophy of putting commercial uses along major intersections, Merdon said.
West Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman also stated his intent to withdraw an amendment to the zoning code that would have allowed eight townhouses per acre as a conditional use on some commercial properties in the rural west. The amendment will still be considered as part of the county's senior housing master plan, he said.
The council will also consider Monday a measure sponsored by Ulman that would ban roadside vendors. Several vendors are lobbying to defeat the bill, which was prompted by complaints about a noisy snowball truck operated near Dorsey Hall Village Center, and people who solicit cash for charity at county intersections.