County government sets goals for 1998

December 17, 1997

County government sets goals for 1998


Staff Writer

Managing and paying for growth and implementing a plan for fire and rescue services are among Washington County's top goals for 1998, discussed by the County Commissioners Wednesday.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said the county needs to do something to prevent the loss of farmland when growth spreads from Frederick County, Md., to Washington County.

"I'm just afraid as always in this county we're going to wait until it's too late," he said.

Wade said he wanted a plan to prohibit a 100-acre farm anywhere in the county from becoming a 100-house development.

"That's what the community wants," he said.

But Commissioner John S. Shank said farmers should be compensated if the county wants to take away their development rights. "If the people want it then the people should be willing to pay for it," he said.


Wade said the county couldn't afford that. "Nobody can," he said.

Wade said agriculture zoning is misleading because it allows development of one house per acre. "It's a housing development waiting to happen," he said.

Wade said the update of the county's comprehensive plan should change that zoning. Drafting an updated comprehensive plan for citizen comment is one of the goals for next year.

Planning Director Robert Arch said a agricultural land can be protected in a number of ways, not just through zoning.

Arch said a beefed up adequate public facilities ordinance and other measures could have more of an effect. A study of how to pay for the costs of new development could recommend impact fees, special taxing districts or other mechanisms to pay for growth and to provide incentives for growth in urban areas.

County officials also will take a hard look at the county's fire and rescue services. A $90,000 study should be complete by this March and will include recommendations to the commissioners.

Shank questioned whether fighting fires was a county responsibility.

"Is a fire an emergency?" asked Shank. "We're responsible for all the emergencies, but I'm not sure we're responsible for all the fire part."

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said a fire was an emergency.

Other goals tentatively approved by the commissioners include:

* Establishment of a plan to provide regional water and waste water service.

* Creation of a strategic plan for all county operations.

* Presentation of a policy for infrastructure development.

* Determination of and provision for support services to Fort Ritchie after the base closes.

The goals will be adopted in January.

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