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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

20060228 Information you can use on annexation legislation

“Information you can use on annexation legislation”

February 28, 2006 By Kevin Dayhoff (1050 words)

To judge from the feedback on “Annex This” which appeared in The Tentacle on February 22, 2006, there is no doubt that issues concerning growth, development and annexation are a hot topic.

[February 22, 2006 – “Annex This” – “Once again the Maryland General Assembly is being asked to step between municipalities and county governments over an issue that threatens the peace and tranquility that should exist between them. This time another crisis is building over growth and development.”]

Many who responded had a fair point - we know how you feel, we want to make up our own minds on this issue – give us the talking points from both points of view, without any spin or commentary.

Okay.

First, to refresh your memory, Senate Bill 536 and its counterpart in the House of Delegates, House Bill 1239 are titled the “Annexation Planning and Procedures Act of 2006.”

The Fiscal and Policy Notes explain: “This bill provides for the implementation of a joint planning agreement (JPA) between a county and a municipal corporation, and sets forth provisions under which land may be annexed and developed by a municipal corporation. The bill takes effect June 1, 2006.”

As this column is being written, a hearing on SB536 is scheduled on March 1, 2006, in the Senate’s Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The House Environmental Matters Committee has scheduled a hearing on HB1239 for March 2, 2006.

One very good place to begin a thorough analysis of this legislation is to review the “Fiscal and Policy Note,” which is dated February 28, 2006. It can be found on the web at: http://mlis.state.md.us/2006rs/fnotes/bil_0006/sb0536.pdf. It is six pages long, so this column will not rehash what you can easily read for yourself.

The Feb. 6, 2006 Maryland Municipal League (MML) bulletin reports that in a meeting between the MML leadership and House Speaker Michael Busch, D., Anne Arundel County:

“Speaker Busch also indicated that he is monitoring the land use/growth issue and reassured MML that the Chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee Delegate Maggie McIntosh will not pass any legislation relating to growth or annexation that is not fair and balanced or more detrimental to one organization or another.”

The same MML bulletin reports on a meeting between Governor Ehrlich's new Director of Legislative Policy Alan Friedman and the MML Legislative Committee on Wednesday, February 1:

“When asked about the land use and growth issue, Mr. Friedman stated that, "The administration is sorry that MACo is going after MML." According to Mr. Friedman, it is obvious that growth is an issue and Maryland Department of Planning and Maryland Department of Environment have recognized growth issues. Mr. Friedman also said that the administration recognizes that planning is primarily a local issue and they are hopeful that the organizations can work it out.”

MML Legislative Chairman and Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo: “noted that it is unfair for the counties to attempt to shift the blame for crowded roads and schools to the municipalities and MACo's efforts to derail annexation are merely a smokescreen to hide the fact that counties are also responsible for controlling growth.”

As many requested, the arguments for both points of view (the MML and Maryland Association of Counties) are presented below – in their own words.

The Maryland Association of Counties’ website supports the legislation by stating:

“Annexation is increasingly becoming a mechanism to circumvent county land use policies and laws.

The problem has become more pronounced recently as developers more frequently partner with municipalities to annex large tracts for intense development. This practice arises from the existing annexation law denying county perspectives meaningful weight in annexation decisions.

To create a fair balance the existing annexation law must be refined to provide reasonable deference to adopted county land use policies and affected citizen concerns.

Annexations should be subject to all statutory Smart Growth standards now applicable to counties and development on annexed property should be consistent with county adequate public facility laws and zoning.

And, existing referendum rights should be extended to citizens living outside the annexing municipality, but proximate to the boundary of the property to be annexed, with a county having the ability to initiative a referendum not just in the property to be annexed, but also in the municipality.”

From the MML point of view, again, in their own words, in the beginning of February 2006, the MML explained its position on planning for growth:

“To better control growth and encourage mutual land use communication and cooperation between municipalities and counties, MML supports the establishment of joint municipal-county planning agreements and the development of growth boundaries around both incorporated and unincorporated population centers. This ensures that all parties are in agreement pursuant to future population allocation between incorporated and unincorporated areas.”

The MML continued by saying:

“According to MACo, growth boundaries should be established ONLY around incorporated cities and towns. Why shouldn’t counties also be required to establish growth boundaries around unincorporated areas such as Towson, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Waldorf, Kent Island, Columbia, Crofton, Germantown, Beltsville, Catonsville, Ocean Pines, Glen Burnie, Edgewater. MACo’s bill would do nothing to address out of control growth around these and other unincorporated population centers in the State.”

“Counties are not required by law to establish growth boundaries in county comprehensive master plans. Shouldn’t growth around unincorporated population centers also be accountable, responsible and subject to public input and scrutiny? If it makes sense for municipalities to establish growth boundaries, why shouldn’t counties also be required to do the same?”

“It is important that a distinction be made between annexation and growth. The issue is not annexation - the issue is growth. Restricting annexation will not restrict growth. Growth will simply occur in rural areas of the State on well and septic systems instead of around existing population centers on wastewater treatment plants.”

Finally, the MML offers this information:

“In 1990, excluding Baltimore City, 2.7% of Maryland's total land mass was located inside municipal borders. As of the year 2004, that percentage has increased to 3.3% in total land mass located within municipal boundaries. This represents an increase in total municipal landmass of just over 0.5% in the past fourteen years.”

There you have it. Both sides, in their own words.

This legislation, will at some time in the future, affect almost each and every Tentacle reader. If you have profound feelings about this legislation, now is the best time to weigh in.

Contact information on the Senate Education Health and Environmental Matters Committee is found at: http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/05sen/html/com/02eco.html.

Contact information on the House Environmental Matters Committee can be found at: http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/06hse/html/com/04env.html.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at: kdayhoff(at)carr.org

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