“County Defeats Proposals to Change Stormwater Fees ” Doesn’t someone have an oak stake . . . ?

Not sure this “interim win” for the supporters of the essential Watershed Protection and Restoration Fee (yes, the “Rain Tax,” as it’s labeled by the right) for repairing the streams and watersheds in Anne Arundel County has been shared on the Pottersweal blog before. Kincey would never say she was solely or even mostly responsible for effectively organizing the opposition to this pair of repeal bills, but she did have a list with about 40 of the names of the people who testified in opposition, and recruited many of them . . .

There were six or seven people who voted for the repeal of the Stormwater Restoration program, but many of them seemed to base their arguments on erroneous interpretations of the existing program. (“We believe the County should have a program based on priorities for restoration projects across the County!” Yes, lady, they should and DO, and it’s already available on the County web site, accessible through the links at <http://www.aacounty.org/DPW/Watershed/Stormwater/WPRF.cfm>)

In true Republican governance mischief, at the same session of the County Council that defeated these two bills, the County Council Chairman, Republican Jerry Walker of District 7 <www.jerrywalker.org>, introduced yet another bill to reduce the Stormwater Restoration Fee by 32%, which would prevent the County from meeting the Federal and State pollution targets that are required by 2025 with interim milestones as early as 2017. I’m sure that “death by a thousand cuts” and “create administrative chaos and uncertainty by throwing sand in the eyes of the program managers just for the heck of it” never occurred to the sponsors of these silly bills. But it does help to stir up their friends.

… from the Capital Gazette web site <http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/annapolis/ph-ac-cn-stormwater-council-0407-20150407,0,3093935.story>

Council defeats proposals to change stormwater fees

50 speak at public hearing on measures

Rema Rahman, rrahman

April 7, 2015

Anne Arundel County’s stormwater fees are staying put — for now.

Two bills that aimed to repeal collection of the fee were defeated by the County Council after a three-hour debate that saw more than 50 members of the public testify.

Republican councilmen Derek Fink of Pasadena, Michael Peroutka of Millersville and Chairman Jerry Walker of Crofton voted in favor of the bills.

All have advocated for proposals to fund stormwater remediation projects from the general fund as opposed to a dedicated lockbox the council created in 2013.

Republican John Grasso of Glen Burnie and Democrats Andrew Pruski of Gambrills, Chris Trumbauer of Annapolis and Pete Smith of Severn, voted to defeat the measures. Smith was a key vote on the bill.

Riverkeepers, residents, property managers and environmental representatives implored the council to defeat two bills that aimed to stop the county from collecting more than $20 million in stormwater fees per year.

The vote followed the first public hearing on the stormwater measures Monday. The council also amended a bill aimed at limiting where state medical licensed clinics can go, in part by allowing them in more areas than the original bill intended.

Some members of the public said one problem area is there is no alternative funding mechanism to pay for projects if a dedicated fund was taken away for projects currently in planning and design stages.

“There simply is no credible Plan B,” Barbara Miller, of Fairhaven, told the council.

Others invoked a higher power.

“God makes the rain,” naturalist John Page Williams, of Annapolis, said. “Man makes the runoff.”

Brad Knopf, of Annapolis, called it “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Opposition was voiced by several council members who were in favor of repealing the fee.

Fink said it would not make sense for the county to increase the fee in fiscal 2016 only to work to phase it out completely over the following three fiscal years.

The fee will increase to $85 per average household starting July 1. When creating the program, the council created a three-year phase-in program for the fee.

If the proposals both aim to repeal the fee, it should come sooner rather than later, Fink said, advocating for an “automatic repeal.”

Bill 16-15, sponsored by request of Republican County Executive Steve Schuh, along with Walker and Peroutka would have phased out collecting more than $20 million in fees over three years starting in fiscal 2017.

Bill 17-15, sponsored by Fink, Peroutka and Walker aimed to repeal collecting all fees at once starting in fiscal 2016. The council was debating amendments on both bills as the meeting stretched into its fourth hour.

In other action, the council passed five amendments to a bill sponsored by Fink that aims to limit where state-licensed medical clinics may go.

The changes opened up more areas where such facilities can go than under the original proposal.

One amendment introduced by Schuh’s administration allows such facilities to be exempt from a 1,000-foot buffer provision from public parks and religious facilities. The provision would remain in place for homes and schools.

Another amendment would allow county-owned land to be leased to private organizations or nonprofits to open clinics. Those facilities would be exempt from being 1,000 feet from a school, park or religious facility, which was part of the original intent of the bill.

The measure was born out of a controversial proposal to open a methadone clinic in Pasadena that sparked an outcry from nearby residents who did not want it in the neighborhood.

The bill would define “state-licensed medical clinics,” add parking criteria for them, and establish conditional use and zoning requirements.

Another change to the bill would make it applicable to clinics that begin operation when the measure takes effect instead of Jan. 1.

Another public hearing on the measure is scheduled for the council’s April 20 meeting. If passed, it would take effect in early June.

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 50 years. Former President (1995 to 2016) of Island Resources Foundation.
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