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COG vote is delayed

February 23, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Calling portions of a Boonsboro-area citizens group's presentation unfair, inaccurate and unrealistic, the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday put off a vote on whether to support that group's proposal to form a local Council of Governments (COG).

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners would consider the proposal, made by the Boonsboro High School Citizens Advisory Committee, and get back to the group.

While the commissioners didn't shoot down the proposal, some said they had problems with the method the advisory group chose to get its message across.

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During the presentation, the advisory committee criticized government and school officials for their handling of a "superwave" of growth in the county.

Donna Brightman, chairwoman of the advisory committee, told the commissioners that establishing a Council of Governments would be a step toward improving communication and planning among county, municipal and Washington County Board of Education officials regarding growth.

The council would consist of commissioners, school board officials, representatives from each municipality and other government representatives. It would hold regular meetings to discuss growth and development issues, according to the advisory committee.

Brightman asked the commissioners to support a resolution to form a Council of Governments.

"In closing, for years parents and citizens of (Washington County) have been frustrated by the finger-pointing" between the school board and the county commissioners, a written statement submitted by the advisory group to the commissioners says. "There has been a huge amount of wasted time, energy and money on everyone's part. If you choose to support this COG resolution, you will be part of the solution."

Parts 'unfair'

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he thought parts of the presentation were unfair, inaccurate and disappointing, because the commissioners have taken steps, some of which were unpopular, to manage growth.

For example, the commissioners have approved charging developers building fees and have adopted new taxes to raise money for school and road improvements, he said.

"I think we have taken ... tough political steps ... that a Republican board doesn't typically do," Kercheval said.

Kercheval said, however, he thought forming a Council of Governments might come in handy in dealing with growth issues.

Brightman said the advisory groups' position stemmed from many years of frustration over the matter and wasn't necessarily reflective of just the commissioners.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he didn't agree with many of the points the group made in its report.

Some of the bulleted items in the report "just won't ever be accomplished," Snook said.

One of the bulleted items outlined by the group called for the county - which has an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) designed to ensure that roads, schools and other infrastructure are adequate for growth - to require all municipalities in the county to adopt a comprehensive APFO.

Snook said that wouldn't work because not all of the municipalities would agree to it. "We don't have any say over a lot of that," Snook said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell took issue with the group's criticism of a plan he proposed that would, in part, generate money to preserve farmland.

He said the group, while it has stressed a need for improved communication, attacked his proposal without trying to contact him.

"When you talk about communication, I would hope that you also look within your own group," Wivell said.

Under Wivell's proposal, agricultural landowners would pay a certain amount per acre if they wanted to build more homes on their properties than would be allowed under the county's proposed rezoning plan.

The advisory group said in a report that Wivell's proposal would, "make it impossible to accurately project or plan for growth ..."

Brightman said advisory committee member Karen Reilly attended a meeting at which Wivell's proposal was discussed.

"My phone number's in the book," Wivell responded.

Wivell said after the meeting that he didn't have a problem with the Council of Governments proposal, but didn't think the advisory committee's pitch was started on the right foot.

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