Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Calvert Gazette
Fisher: No Limit on Power to Tax
Local Delegate Protests Proposed Transit Districts
By Sarah Miller Staff Writer Senate Bills 829 and 830, supported by Senator MikeMiller, are “a cleverly disguised sneak a tax,” according toState Delegate Mark Fisher (R-Calvert).
Senate Bill 829 created two Transit Benet Districts,
Fisher said. The governor decides what counties will be in
each Transit Benet District.“Miller’s bill gives this new, unelected Transit Benet
District bureaucracy the authority to increase property taxes
on homes and businesses within the Transit Benet District,”
Fisher said. “There is no limit on their power to increase property taxes.”The bills will increase gas taxes by 15 cents per gallon – it will raise property taxes. The bills authorize the Mary-land Transit Administration to establish a maximum of two
transit benet districts to impose specied taxes to nance,
construct, and operate transit facilities and transit servicesand allows the governing body of a county to impose an ad-
ditional tax on specied motor fuel, Fisher said.
“Miller’s proposals are a double threat,” Fisher said.The bills do not protect the Transportation Trust Fund.It can still be raided, requiring no repayment, Fisher said.Miller said the trust fund will be locked, and all fundsthat were taken in years past have been repaid. The moneywill help replace the Thomas Johnson Bridge and the Gover-nor Harry Nice Bridge. The options for local governments toimpose additional taxes and other suggestions are a “menu”for the governor to think of ways to get money into the trans- portation fund.Fisher said the ever-increasing taxes are not an optionthat should be considered.“He [Miller] wants to put a lock box on the checkingaccounts of the citizens,” he said.Part of the trust fund will pay for improvements in pub-lic transportation, Miller said.More than half of the trust fund is used for mass trans- portation, which eight percent of the population uses, accord-ing to Delegate Tony O’Donnell. He wants the governmentto consider cutting back on mass transportation spending tohelp replace bridged and repair roads.The state shouldn’t think about increasing fuel tax untilsafe guards are in place to spend funds appropriately, he said,suggesting waiting until the economy turns around. Higher gastaxes add unnecessary strains to Maryland citizens, he said.
BOCC Still Not Accepting Group Home Ordinances
By Sarah Miller Staff Writer After receiving complaints from a neighborhood asso-ciation about a proposed group home hosting 16 individualsin their area, Community Planning and Building Director Chuck Johnston began working on ordinances regardingsuch group homes.When he looked into Calvert regulations, he foundgroups homes of up to 16 residents were acceptable, and theBoard of Appeals could approve larger homes. He said he believed it prudent to “tone down” regulations permittingsuch large homes, which he said could be seen as commer-cial enterprises.Johnston has brought proposed ordinance changes be-fore the Board of County Commissioners twice.The Feb. 5 meeting was the second time commission-ers saw ordinances concerning group homes. They rejectedsimilar proposed ordinances during their Nov. 20 meeting.During that meeting, Johnston said the plan was to com- bat large numbers of unrelated individuals living together.Johnston’s November proposal would have decreased thenumber of individuals allowed to live in a single grouphome from 16 to 8. In addition, the proposed change wouldhave required the owner of the house to live on premises.Concerned a proposed ordinance would segregateindividuals recovering from drug addiction or with devel-opmental challenges, the Board of County Commissionersvoted to send proposed changes back back to the drawing board.Proposed ordinance changes presented Feb. 5 had
similar reductions in sizes, and added denitions for care
homes, shelters and transitional housing. Care homes areresidential homes for individuals who require frequent caredue to age or disability, group homes are targeted at indi-viduals with developmental disabilities, shelters are aimedat abuse victims or homeless individuals and transitionalhousing situations are meant to help individuals coming outof a shelter.The changes also called for housing situations to becategorically licensed.County Commissioner Susan Shaw objected with the
denitions for licenses.
“You don’t even know what you’re doing here,” she
said, adding such denitions and a permitting process
would only serve to segregate individuals living in grouphousing situations which have existed for more than 25years.“We’ve had that with no problems, now we’re gonna go back and start classifying people,” she said.She made a motion to send the ideas back for further consideration. County Commissioner Jerry Clark suggest-ed the Planning Commission be involved in the process.Shaw was hesitant to accept his amendment.
“I’m trying to gure out what you’re doing,” she said.
“I’m trying to get more minds wrapped around the is-sue,” he told her.Shaw accepted the change and the commissionersvoted unanimously to send the ordinance changes back for further consideration between Community Planning andBuilding staff and the Planning Commission.American Planning Association guidelines provided by the Calvert Department of Community Planning andBuilding allow licensing group homes.“The extensive research on the impacts of communityresidences shows that they generate no adverse impacts onthe surrounding neighborhood as long as they are licensedand not clustered on a block. There is no need to subjectcommunity residences to special use permit procedures be-cause the licensing and spacing threshold issues are purelyfactual questions that can be determined administrativelyand do not require the extra scrutiny of a special use permithearing,” according to the APA Policy Guide on Commu-nity Residences.
The guidelines dene a group home as “A dwelling
unit occupied as a single housekeeping unit in a family likeenvironment by up to approximately 12 to 15 persons withdisabilities plus support staff.”Disabilities range from developmental to physical,Johnston said. Some assisted living facilities are geared for seniors who need help but do not need round-the-clock careoffered by nursing homes. Other group homes help abusedwomen or individuals recovering from drug and alcoholaddiction.