City/county Digest

CITY/COUNTY DIGEST

February 08, 2006

Harford council continues school-linked development ban

In a surprise move, the Harford County Council voted last night to continue until 2009 barring development in areas where schools are 5 percent over capacity - a compromise between the pleas of two council members that left neither satisfied.

Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, a Democrat from Joppatowne, had introduced an amendment to the county's adequate public facilities law that would have eliminated a sunset clause increasing the standard to 115 percent in June 2007. Guthrie has said a lower figure was needed to address school crowding problems before they escalated.

Robert G. Cassilly, a swing vote whose absence at previous meetings had delayed a decision on the amendment, instead offered a new one. It keeps the threshold at 105 percent until 2009, when it increases to 110 percent. The measure passed 5-2.

Voting against the amendment were Guthrie and Richard C. Slutzky, an Aberdeen Republican who said the county would have difficulty getting state dollars for school construction if it capped development when schools were lower than 15 percent over capacity.

The Baltimore County Council recently strengthened its adequate public facilities law, which, like Howard County's, is set at 115 percent. Carroll County dropped its figure from 120 percent to 109 percent in 2004. Advocates for so-called Smart Growth say the ordinances undermine the state's anti-sprawl policy.

Also during last night's meeting, council members introduced a flurry of changes to the county's comprehensive rezoning plan. Included were several amendments proposed by Slutzky that residents fear could jump-start heavy business development on Route 22 between Bel Air and Aberdeen. Churchville residents have lobbied the council for several months against changes in the area, citing noise and congested roads.

Justin Fenton

Howard County: Sex offense charges

Grand jury indicts business executive

A Howard County business executive has been indicted by a grand jury on two felony sexual offense charges involving a minor, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office said yesterday. Steven R. Chamberlain, 50, chairman of Lanham-based Integral Systems Inc., was charged with two misdemeanors in June, accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in his home between November 2003 and May 2004. The charges were made public in a Securities and Exchange filing in November. The misdemeanor charges were dropped yesterday and replaced with the felony third-degree sexual offense and sexual abuse of a minor charges, said T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the state's attorney's office. Efforts to reach Chamberlain by phone yesterday evening at his addresses in Columbia and Clarksville were unsuccessful.

Tyrone Richardson

Carroll County: Homestead credit

Commissioners fault plan to lower rate

The Carroll County commissioners have asked legislators to consider the fiscal ramifications of a proposed 2-percentage- point reduction in the homestead tax credit. In a letter to the county delegation, the commissioners said the decrease in the tax credit, now at 7 percent, could create a $16 million shortfall within five years that would force the postponement of three schools, two senior centers and a fire training academy. Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of the delegation, submitted the bill last week, saying Carroll "is flush with revenue now." Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said, "We need more money to pay bills, and Haines wants to drop taxes."

Mary Gail Hare

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