The Crofton Civic Association wants to know: Would the community benefit by becoming a city or town?

After a daylong seminar Saturday covering a wide range of topics, members said they want Town Manager Jordan Harding to find out what it will cost for a detailed study of incorporation. But with literally hundreds of factors to consider, itwill be some time before members of the special tax district will beable to formally debate the issue.

Even a committee which started meeting eight months ago couldn't reach a conclusion. It released its report at the meeting, saying theidea needs further study.

"We have no recommendation," said committee chairman David Lombardo. "We wanted to lay out all the possibilities so you could whet your collective appetites."

Incorporating would allow Crofton -- a fast-growing community of 10,000 people -- toenact local ordinances, establish business regulations, control landuse and receive state and federal funds.

It also would allow the community to write its own laws, set up a mayoral form of government,establish its own inspection agencies and acquire property through eminent domain.

Crofton's special tax district -- bounded by Md. 3 and Routes 424 and 450 -- already levies property taxes, but is subject to county laws.

The county has the power to regulate the tax, and any service the community provides, such as a police force, is supplemental to count amenities.

Crofton has a budget of about $500,000, half of which supports the Crofton police force.

To become incorporated, the community must submit a petition with signatures from 25 percent of the residents and win County Council approval.

Anne Arundel has only two incorporated municipalities: Annapolis, with a population of about 33,000, and Highland Beach, with a population of about 150.

In evaluating whether or not Crofton should incorporate,the civic association must decide if there would be an adequate tax base to provide desired levels of services.

The association also must look at increased insurance rates, see if there are enough peopleto run the government and find out if it will take in more money then it does now.

While becoming incorporated will make available more grants and state funds, strings attached may not make the money worthwhile.

For example, to receive a portion of state highway funds, a city must perform its own street maintenance. Crofton will have to decide if that is worth the additional money.

One reason given at Saturday's meeting to incorporate was the increased clout Crofton would have. Not only would elected officials be more responsive and accountable, but the community would have the power over planning and zoning.

The ability to determine on its own how to develop land within its boundaries is particularly attractive to association members.

"Strong arguments in favor of incorporating (include) that we would get control over our own affairs," Lombardo said. "An example would be planning and zoning. The results would be crystal clear."

Crofton could also decide on what services it want to offer residents.

"A municipality doesn't have to provide any services," said Brian Gardner, director of the Institute for Governmental Service at the University of Maryland at College Park, who led the discussion. "There is a laundry list you can choose from."

That means Crofton could still rely on the county for some services, such as trash removal, roadmaintenance or fire protection.

"I would strongly recommend a limited-service city," Lombardo said. "I don't see us offering much morethen we do now."

Another issue is expansion. Several members brought up the possibility of Crofton annexing the Greater Crofton area, not currently part of the special tax district, but one with a fast-growing population.

Another drawback mentioned in Lombardo's reportis that Crofton may lose control over the enforcement of covenants, or rules homeowners must follow in regard to decorating or adding to their property.

It may not be possible to transfer covenants to a city code. Also, the report says it may not be possible to transfer property owned by the special tax district to a municipality.

The report also says that the county could lose state money with the creation of a city within its borders, because that money would be redistributed to Crofton.

"I don't believe the county is very receptive to the idea of adding municipalities," Lombardo said. "The greatest obstacle would be a political one."

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