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Bruchey fights for city in Annapolis

March 03, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

The new mayor of Hagerstown spent his first full day in office traveling to Annapolis, then standing along the wall of the House Environmental Matters meeting room for a couple of hours, waiting for an opportunity to speak for two minutes on a bill the city opposes.

Robert E. Bruchey II, sworn in Wednesday morning to complete the term of former Mayor Richard F. Trump, accompanied city Planning Director Kathleen Maher to the capital to testify against a bill that changes the rules for municipalities seeking to annex property outside current boundaries.

But Bruchey was lucky; he only spent 2 1/2 hours waiting to testify. On Wednesday, Maher waited nearly twice as long to testify against a similar bill in the Senate.

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Bruchey and Maher were among a large crowd of municipal officials from all over Maryland who contend that the bill unfairly penalizes municipalities attempting annexation. Municipalities would ask for a joint planning agreement with county governments before annexing, giving counties final authority, municipal leaders say.

Or, in Maher's words, the bill would force cities wanting to expand to "make a deal with the devil" in order to annex.

The Maryland Municipal League, which represents cities and towns throughout the state, adamantly opposes the bill. Among other things, the organization says, it gives counties authority to:

  • impose growth boundaries on cities

  • mandate that a county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance be applied to annexed areas unless the county chooses to exempt

  • require an annexation plan from municipalities before land is annexed


Once land is annexed, it would be subject to county zoning restrictions in place for another 10 years before a municipality could change it.

Del. Murray Levy, D-Charles, argued that when municipalities expand and develop, counties get stuck with the added costs for services such as education.

Not so, Bruchey said.

"City residents pay county taxes," he said, and county taxes pay for education.

Bruchey used the two minutes allotted by committee Vice Chairman James E. Malone, D-Baltimore, to argue that in Hagerstown and Washington County, the Adequate Public Facility Ordinances and the city's annexation practices "all works out without putting all the power in the hands of the county."

Maher told the committee that the bill "is not proposing a partnership" between cities and counties, but " a dictatorship of counties over cities."

She provided committee members with a written report showing most of the growth in Washington County - 87 percent between 2000 and 2004 - has occurred outside of Hagerstown.

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