A controversial resolution that would define the authority of the Baltimore County Council to extend public water and sewer service to rural areas was scrapped yesterday - hours before it was scheduled to vote on the matter.
With a majority of the council's seven members either opposed to the resolution or in favor of tabling it, and one working on changes to the measure as recently as Friday, council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder said he decided to withdraw it.
"To leave it out there and try to work on it tonight, there would be last-minute decisions," he said, leaving no chance for community input in what has been an emotional debate over the sanctity of the county's nearly four-decade-old growth boundary.
Yesterday's decision marked the second time in two weeks that council members, faced with residents' concerns, have opted to pull resolutions dealing with their authority over rural extension of public utilities.
"That's good news," said Teresa A. Moore, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council. "I think they ... raised so many concerns they didn't have any other choice."
Council members have said the resolutions grew out of decisions by state officials to refuse extension of water and sewer services to several neighborhoods outside the county's boundary for dense development, known as the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line. The council said the state has granted such requests in the past, although state officials said last week that those approvals were limited to areas with public health concerns.
To offset the denials, the council initially considered a proposal that would have defined its authority to extend water and sewer to the rural side of the line broadly, "in its discretion, for any reason deemed appropriate."
After residents complained that the resolution could lead to unwanted development, that measure was withdrawn and replaced with a new resolution that would have limited the council to areas with public health concerns or to approved tracts along the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay shoreline.
But even that resolution ran into opposition at a council work session last week.
By late last week, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, whose district includes two of the neighborhoods that were denied extensions, said he was working on changes to the measure.
He said he decided not to go ahead with those efforts yesterday after a meeting with officials from the state's planning and environment departments convinced him that the county and state could work out their differences without resorting to legislation.
Charles E. Gates Jr., spokesman for the Maryland Department of Planning, said the problem was often one of communication: The county wasn't providing information to justify some of its extension requests.
In other business last night, council members approved legislation to provide some tax relief for victims of Tropical Storm Isabel who were forced to rebuild after the storm and later discovered that their new homes were worth much more and were being taxed at the higher value.
The legislation calculates property taxes using a formula based on the preflood value of the house through the 2009 fiscal year.