It's July, and things are heating up in HoCo. It's a busy Council month before their August recess. There's a jammed packed schedule at this Monday's Public Hearing with lots of people expected to testify on three big contentious issues; mulching concerns with CB60, APFO issues CB61,62, and a TIF proposed (Route 1) CR111.
Many western Howard County residents and civic groups feel deja-vu from a 2014 fight that ended up with a bill that protected neighboring property from large-scale mulching that produced air quality problems, and fire and water safety concerns. A lengthy task force met on these issues, and this month a new Bill, CB60 was introduced outlining the regulations that will manage this sort of use. The People's Voice doesn't support industrial mulching in rural districts near residences because it is hard to enforce important safety factors. It is especially unfair to allow it on Ag Preserve parcels. Many would easily agree with this, and do, but the contention comes in when defining the word "industrial". Some say 1 acre, some say 5 or more. I think looking at the number of tons of wood mulch produced, one can pretty much tell if this is an ancillary use for a farm, or just taking advantage of lower taxes and land prices in a certain zone, to do what belongs in a more expensive one, where it is easier to regulate. We are opposed to this bill, and if it passes, we hope it has plenty of amendments. I suggested several specific ones, which you can see HERE.
As for APFO, I sat on that task force, which was quite contentious and frustrating, with high voting total requirements to pass anything, and thus, it was very difficult to be productive. Anything that we all agreed to was hard-won, and should be taken very seriously. We had to compromise on some things, and I am particularly proud to have a deal that included bringing school capacity down to 110% when halting development. I think that portion of the deal must be done now, and not be held off just because there are State issues with developers being able to pay higher school surcharges to lessen their wait. After all, with the redistricting that is coming, it is going to open a lot more schools, which the task force did not consider possible at the time. See more details on our position on these bills HERE.
Many recall the arguments for and against the Columbia TIF, and there are similar issues with this one, but, I do think that certain public amenities like MARC station changes are okay for the County to financially assist; however, there is a laundry list of benefits that could be paid for by the County in this TIF instead of the developer that don't seem right. Check out our recommendations HERE.
If you want to be heard on these issues or other ones from the Council's July agenda, come testify on Monday night, 7/17 at 7PM. It will be a long night though, so if you cannot come/stay, or you see this blog after the hearing date, email the whole council at CouncilMail@howardcountyMD.gov as they will likely table some of this legislation and be able to hear commentary for a while now.