Amnesia on Adequate Facilities HOWARD COUNTY


In the debate over growth in Howard County, one argument often made against future development is that it would cause overcrowded schools and traffic jams, the result of which would be ever-increasing taxes.

But rarely these days will the county's most vocal opponents of growth mention that Howard has provisions -- hashed out publicly more than a year ago -- to help alleviate the strain on infrastructure that growth causes.

Omitting that fact from their arguments erodes the credibility of no-growth advocates, whose all-or-nothing approach ignores common sense and history. It is time to set the facts straight.

Early last year, the County Council approved a series of resolutions to address the issue of adequate public facilities by requiring that developers meet several tests when seeking building permits for a project. One of those tests requires the developer to pay an excise tax when the size of a project demands new or improved roads.

Since April of last year, the excise tax fund has grown to about $1.4 million. That amount is expected to increase more rapidly in the coming months and years. Those funds, which the county is required to match 2-1, can be used only for road additions and improvements.

Other tests in the adequate public facilities regulations cap development in certain areas of the county based on the number of units in a project and the impact on nearby schools.

The adequate facilities provisions were debated publicly, with input from a cross-section of individuals and special-interest groups. In fact, the group opposed to growth attempted to scuttle the new rules by bringing the matter to a referendum last year. The group failed to muster even the number of signatures required for a petition.

With that avenue closed, they've chosen not to address the matter seriously at all. The adequate facilities regulations are not perfect. They do not eradicate all of the problems that can accompany growth, but they do alleviate them. If the no-growth forces truly wanted to limit growth and not stop it, they would be arguing for stricter adequate facilities provisions. Instead, they bay at the moon in an attempt to frighten the public into believing nightmarish scenarios about what growth will bring.

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