The recent proposals of Anne Arundel County's newly elected government to slow development are giving the county a reputation for being hostile to business, the County Council chairman warned yesterday.
Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Democrat from Glen Burnie, said he's worried about the appearance of an anti-development "witch hunt" in recent attempts to halt construction of an auto racing stadium, close a recycling business in Pasadena, frustrate construction near Annapolis and impose a moratorium on the rezoning of land.
Klosterman, leader of the almost entirely new seven-member council, said the county's tax base will shrink if it scares away developers. Declining tax revenues could force the county to cut public services, he said.
"We are getting the reputation of being anti-growth," said Klosterman, an accountant. "We shouldn't be anti-growth. Because if our tax base shrinks, we will have to start cutting services, and then the voters are really going to scream."
His comments came a day after Democratic County Executive Janet S. Owens derailed plans by Chesapeake Motorsports Development Corp. of Pasadena to build a 60,000-seat auto-racing stadium south of the Key Bridge.
The new executive and all six new members of the council -- including Klosterman -- won election in November promising to control suburban sprawl and end what they described as the last administration's favoritism toward developers.
But with two council members proposing legislation that would hurt businesses by reversing bills passed by the last council, Klosterman's statements are the first strong sign of opposition within the majority Democratic Party to pursuit of their goals.
To consider four bills
The council met yesterday to discuss four bills scheduled for votes in the next few weeks:
A proposal that would remove a November 1997 amendment to the county's land-use plan near the Annapolis Mall that gave the green flag to a mixed development of apartments and shops.
A bill that would reverse April 1997 legislation that saved the recycling business of a business associate of former Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr.
A proposal that would impose a two-year moratorium on rezoning land everywhere in the county except for Glen Burnie and the Pasadena peninsula to allow the County Council to study revisions to zoning designations.
A proposal that would revise an April zoning law change and make it even more difficult for developers to move ahead with an already-hobbled proposal to build the racetrack south of the Key Bridge.
County executive's view
Andrew C. Carpenter, a spokesman for Owens, said the county executive is not anti-growth.
Owens is eager to attract businesses to boost the county's tax revenues, Carpenter said.
He said Owens opposed the Key Bridge site for the racetrack because she worried that building the stadium there would cause traffic jams and environmental problems.
"Mrs. Owens has been meeting with business groups and bringing her pro-economic development message to every corner of the county," Carpenter said. "Her concerns about the [Key Bridge] site were very site-specific. She has no problem with the concept of building the track elsewhere."
Carpenter noted that Owens is responsible for only one of the bills debated yesterday by the council: the moratorium on zoning changes.
During the comprehensive revision of the county's zoning designations that the county undertakes once a decade, it is normal for the county to impose a temporary halt on applications for changes to the zoning of individual properties, Carpenter said.
The last time the county went through a comprehensive rezoning, in 1989, the county imposed a three-year moratorium on scattered rezonings, Carpenter said.
"The moratorium is not anti-growth," Carpenter said. "Anyone who already has zoning approved for their project is not going to be shut down."
A. Shirley Murphy and Barbara Samorajczyk, the County Council members proposing the other three bills discussed yesterday, said their legislation is necessary to correct abuses of the last County Council.
Murphy said it was unethical for then-Councilman Redmond to vote for a bill that saved the recycling business of a friend with whom Redmond had financial ties.
Samorajczyk defended her proposal to roll back the changes to the county's land-use plan near Annapolis Mall, saying the changes helped developers and were an "abuse" of the planning process.
Bob Burdon, president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said any of the bills by itself would not be a big problem.
"But when you look at them all put together, they do send a bad message to the business community," he said.
Pub Date: 2/12/99