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Westminster council OKs water policy amendment, bids fond farewell to planning director

Bill Mackey, who left his position as Westminster's director of community planning and development on Friday, flips through the city code at a Common Council meeting in November.
Bill Mackey, who left his position as Westminster's director of community planning and development on Friday, flips through the city code at a Common Council meeting in November. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times / BSMG)

Members of Westminster’s Common Council voted unanimously on amendments to the city’s water and sewer allocation policy. The plan, which acts like a budget for the city’s limited water and sewer resources from 2018 to 2024, was largely masterminded by Bill Mackey, who left his city position Friday, Aug. 16.

The mayor and council presented an official resolution recognizing his contributions to the city. He served as the director of community planning and development since Sept. 1, 2015.

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“Most artists have a magnum opus. And I believe this to be yours,” council President Gregory Pecraro said as he introduced the vote to amend the adopted water and sewer allocation policy for 2018-2024.

“It was meant to be a living document, and it is,” Mackey said. Monday marked the third time a revision to the policy had come before the council. They voted unanimously Monday to approve the amendment.

The policy adds more categories for construction projects that request water from the city's limited resources. By capping water allocation at a certain amount to these categories, the city has a certain amount of influence over development.

Two new categories distinguish between commercial projects planned inside city limits and outside city limits. The city places priority on projects inside the city requesting city water.

There is also a new category for projects that are food- and beverage-related uses within city limits. By separating these out, “the City can effectively cap the use of water by these uses, which are very water intensive but do not typically create the new, higher paying job opportunities that the City desires,” according to the memo that accompanied the proposal.

These new categories will become part of the allocation plan starting in 2020.

Another revision deals with single-unit residential projects inside the city limits. Before the allocation policy went into place in 2018, there was a log of 700 residential properties inside city limits. As the city works through that list, the city will approve one new unit inside the city and one unit outside the city per year.

The amendment added Monday makes it so projects inside the city can queue up for theses spots and get updates of what year they are expected to be approved for the water allocation. Previously, folks could only apply for the spots in the plan one year in advance and had to reapply if they were denied.

The effect creates more equality with these types of projects outside city limits. When they applied for city water without being annexed into city limits under a Good Cause Waiver, they were already able to benefit from this kind of queue and year estimate.

A final addition adds a line to the section for one-time projects where the city can organize if officials ever wish to contribute city water to county-level projects.

Pecoraro said it was a benefit so they could “clearly see where the water is going.”

He predicted, “We’re going to be allocating water for years and years and decades and decades the same way we allocate tax dollars."

The full text of the amendment is available through the city’s website or in person at the city administrative office.

As the city recognized Mackey, Councilman Benjamin Yingling thanked Mackey for educating him when he was new to government about planning and zoning maters.

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“There were multiple times when I ran over to his office and had an animated discussion about certain projects, and he was always respectful, meticulous, ethical and really cared about his work,” Yingling said.

Mayor Joe Dominick added that "a lot of people don’t know the real Mr. Mackey” because he often had to be the bearer of bad news and say no to projects that water resources couldn’t allow.

Dominick praised the underappreciated artistry of the water allocation plan Mackey created.

“I don’t think when you went to school to be an architect, you thought you would be the architect of a water allocation policy that’s really just squeezing water from stones,” he said.

The resolution recognizing Mackey noted the creation of the water and sewer allocation plan as one of his most significant contributions to the city. Other projects included the six-year review of the Comprehensive Plan and supporting downtown initiatives.

The resolution reads, “the Mayor, members of the Common Council, the City Attorney, and City staff respected and valued Mr. Mackey’s technical expertise and guidance in planning and zoning matters ... as Director of Community Planning and Development, Mr. Mackey worked tirelessly to make the City of Westminster a better place, and has played an important role in shaping the future of the City for decades to come.”

Mackey spoke briefly at the meeting and said he was touched by his colleagues’ kind words.

“I know that I have some friends for life here,” he said.

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