Cumberland Times-News

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November 17, 2012

Maryland counties seek moratorium on land-use initiatives

Time needed to adjust to bills already passed; Allegany County Commission president on board

CUMBERLAND — Maryland counties need a timeout on land-use legislation to deal with bills already passed by the General Assembly. That’s the word from the Maryland Association of Counties.

The association is seeking a two-year moratorium on new land-use and environmental initiatives.

MACo spokesman Les Knapp said that counties need time to deal with bills that have already been passed and can’t absorb additional requirements or mandates. Knapp said that Maryland counties have to adjust to new septic system requirements and 10 counties will have to deal with storm-water fees next year.

Allegany County Commission President Michael McKay agrees.

“I agree 100 percent with Mr. Knapp’s comments. Regardless, if the public supports the bills passed by the General Assembly or not, the counties will be challenged to create some plan of implementation,” McKay said. “The daunting task of the legislation is truly how the counties pay for such bills.”

The association spokes-man said that since 2006, counties have had to deal with major new land-use and environmental legislation or regulations every year. And they’re concerned about state growth policies and the cost of the Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy.

The statements by the MACo leader parallel concerns that led to the formation of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition last year. Caroline County commissioners and the Wicomico County Council both voted unanimously to join in recent months, a coalition press release stated. Coalition members also include Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Somerset and Washington counties. The coalition began with four counties in December.

“We are tremendously pleased and honored that Wicomico and Caroline counties chose to join the coalition. We look forward to working with the members of the coalition in our mutual goal to ensure that the unique needs and perspectives of Maryland’s rural counties are taken into consideration during the decision-making process in Annapolis,” McKay said recently.

The organization is not meant as a rival to the Maryland Association of Counties. McKay said there is a need for the rural coalition as an independent organization.

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