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Council is wary of adopting ordinance

February 08, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

daniels@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council declined to act on an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, saying Tuesday night it would be willing to walk away from nearly $500,000 in tax revenues to retain the city's right to set its own course.

"Are we willing to give up certain rights to the county in order to get money?" Councilman Lewis C. Metzner asked, summarizing the concerns of Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire.

During the council's work session, Aleshire said the city might be better off walking away from county tax funds and establishing its own impact fees to regulate development.

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The county has asked municipalities to adopt Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances similar to one the county adopted in 1990 and has made amendments to as recently as this past summer. The ordinance contains growth regulations intended to help ensure schools, roads and other public services and facilities are adequate to handle growth. The regulations are tied to municipalities' access to county excise tax funding.

The city needs to adopt an ordinance sanctioned by the county by March 1 in order to receive 28 percent of the excise taxes the county collects in the city starting last July. The city collected $476,000 in county excise taxes from July to Jan. 31 of this year, according to city information.

The council drafted a version of the county's APFO in July which could meet the county's standards, but the city has not heard back from county officials. The city's ordinance was developed in an effort to aid in some downtown redevelopment initiatives and avoid the creation of additional financial difficulties for developers or homeowners.

City information on the county's APFO notes the city could be forced to put a moratorium on development with the county's ordinance, even in areas targeted by city for downtown revitalization, if city schools are not equipped to handle the additional development.

"We have nothing to lose and a half a million dollars to maintain," Metzner said, arguing the city could simply adopt the county's APFO and then rescind it if it decides it does not like the provisions of the ordinance or the county's application of it.

Aleshire said he does not feel it is that easy. He said if the council adopts the ordinance the city will need to make adjustments to the way it operates that will not be as easily undone as a simple council vote.

"You can't simply say 'O.K, now we're going to get rid of this," Aleshire said.

Council members Aleshire, Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia D. Parson-McBean supported a suggestion by Metzner that the city draft a letter asking the county to comment on the city's ordinance, but Aleshire said he does not think the county will support the document. He said the city might be better off imposing its own impact fees on development and walking away from the county's tax revenues.

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