xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Pyatt: Little time for Mount Airy to overcome complex hurdles regarding latest annexation | COMMENTARY

Mount Airy had three or four annexations in the 1990s, our population tripled, and the Town Council and staff knew the ropes. The last annexation for the Zeltman property in 2006 was overturned on referendum — not so much on procedural elements but because the town had finally reached a tipping point for growth.

For the record, I sensed this shift and was the only council member to vote against the Zeltman annexation. The request for annexation for the Leishear-Harrison property recently fell from the sky and landed on the Town’s inbox.

Advertisement

When we had our last annexation, people actually voted at poling stations, and Zoom meetings were between lawyers and clients to fight speeding tickets.

We haven’t done this in a while, there is no institutional memory, and it shows.

Advertisement

In municipal annexations, transparency is the key, and this is stressed by the Maryland Municipal League, and there is a handbook for this. Almost always, annexations occur between municipalities and counties, and there is no ambiguity who owns the property — although there are usually conditional sales to developers.

Sometimes, instead of being too cozy as this situation appears, the county and municipality have substantially different agendas. The current problem is compounded in this situation by the inability to have open meetings attended by the public during this process because of the pandemic.

There are a lot of moving parts on this one.

Just as one small example: The enabling legislation to approve the Mixed Use Zoning — which appears to be a key enabler in this annexation — was done at the August 2020 council meeting (without fully allowing the Planning Commission to respond to additional changes the council made at the meeting it was “adopted”).

The petition for annexation was introduced the same evening as the enactment. What if the zoning ordinance was not approved?

The Planning Commission may perhaps overthink problems in some cases, but these are very complex problems. There is far too much missing information, and it is unlikely that an informed decision can be reached in 120 days. There are apparently three separate parcels of land in this petition, requiring simultaneously develop complex annexation agreements with the county. There may be no process to sort this all out.

The Carroll County Industrial Development Authority, which occasionally likes to consider itself above the fray — they haven’t published meeting minutes in several years and seem to operate somewhat under the radar — appears to be a key player and is the current spokesman.

Carroll County paid $23 million for this property about 20 years ago, and it’s not clear how the transfer of property ownership is occurring in this process. Does the county provide this authority to the IDA to negotiate this? Does the IDA act for the county in meeting certain legal commitments for municipal annexations as required by state law and granting waivers?

It may be legit, and it may not be. Right now, not knowing this adds to the confusion. Can the town officials enforce planning decisions onto the IDA if it reports to the county?

Since the county has such financial leverage over municipalities, e.g. providing schools, roads, some police aid, and emergency service funding at a minimum, and there are so many overlapping jurisdictional issues, I really question to what extent they would adhere to Mount Airy Planning Commission decisions, especially if they felt there was undue financial expense.

Certainly the major ones and ones in their favor, but I’m not as sure about the often more overlooked but very important details of site plan reviews.

What strikes me about the current Harrison-Leishear annexation — it is a potential major addition to the town, and there is enough water for possibly a thousand housing units or so plus the industrial development yet would have a huge potential on traffic flow on state owned Md. Rte. 27 — is how many complex hurdles have to be overcome by the town to make an informed decision in such a compressed time.

Advertisement

Dave Pyatt writes from Mount Airy. Reach him at DPyatt2@verizon.net.

For any member of the community who would like to submit a guest community voices column for publication consideration, it should be approximately 700 words and sent to bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement