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Revenue board given go-ahead despite opposition


Annapolis aldermen were told last night they may begin drafting legislation to create a revenue authority despite a referendum drive against the proposal.

A group of residents failed to obtain enough signatures for a referendum against a newly approved charter amendment allowing the city government to establish a revenue authority, Richard E. Israel, chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Elections, said in a letter delivered to the council.

The board ruled that "the petition was filed in a timely manner but does not have the required number of signatures to force a referendum on the revenue authority amendment," Mr. Israel stated.

Citizens in favor of a referendum had six weeks to collect signatures from 20 percent of the electorate, or 3,600 names. Petitioners collected only 2,413 signatures by the June 17 deadline, Mr. Israel said. The council accepted Mr. Israel's findings with no debate.

Many residents who ran the petition drive said the revenue authority would contain hidden costs for city taxpayers and allow a non-elected board to make critical development decisions with little public accountability. More than 60 residents collected signatures for a referendum.

Supporters of the authority contend that it would bring development to struggling areas of Annapolis while avoiding delays and lowering taxpayer costs associated with many large government-sponsored development projects.

Revenue authorities are small corporate boards that issue bonds and collect fees to finance high-priced projects such as stadiums. An authority is governed by board members who are appointed by local government officials but whose decisions are not directly approved by residents.

The state legislature, which usually OKs revenue authorities, refused to establish such a body in Annapolis. So in May, the city voted 5-3 to change its charter and give aldermen the power to create a revenue authority without state approval.

By law, the council may form the financing group as early as today. Aldermen have said they won't name a board until the fall, after getting citizen input on the size and scope of a financing body for Annapolis.

In other matters last night, the city heard a petition by Portland Lobster Inc., in the 1900 block of Lincoln Drive, to keep its warehousing, storage and sales operation running despite earlier code violations.

Two years ago, workers at nearby shops complained of foul, fishy smells coming from the lobster business. The city cited Portland Lobster and said it had violated zoning codes.

Since then, the business, which has remained open, has improved its ventilation systems and there have been no more complaints about the smell, said Anthony F. Christhilf, a lawyer nTC for Portland Lobster. No citizens testified against allowing the lobster company to stay open. The council will issue a ruling July 10.

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