It's usually bad form for a blogger to admit ignorance; it destroys the pretense that we actually know what we're talking about.
Well, I've never been accused of having good form, so here's my admission: I don't know enough to actually provide informed comment on any of the stories I'm about to comment one.
First, there's the county budget, which is scheduled to be voted on by the council tomorrow. There appear to be two main sticking points: the fire tax and Belmont.
Hmm. I wrote about this before and got some helpful feedback, but I'm still sort of in the dark. One thing I do know, however, is that our fire departments have some nice looking apparatuses, many of which were outside my office building yesterday. Sadly, they didn't offer free ladder rides.
Three council members -- Republican Greg Fox and Democrats Courtney Watson and Mary Kay Sigaty -- expressed interest in lowering the increase Ulman proposed in the fire property tax, but they did not settle on what to cut to replace the $6 million in new revenue the tax increase would produce. Because the dedicated fire tax must fund only fire department items, any council move to cut the tax would require a companion cut in fire department funding, or an agreement with Ulman to shift funds from another place.
Ulman said he was open to discussion if a council majority desired, but no council member appeared interested in cutting the fire department budget.
The other budgetary issue is Belmont, which I think I know a little more about.
These arguments seemed compelling until I read this article saying the state wants the county to use it's own money to buy the conference center. What gives?
Another proposal to cut $5 million in county funding to allow Howard Community College to buy Belmont, the 18th-century Elkridge estate and conference center, and renovate two buildings had not attracted three votes despite a strong effort by Ellicott City Democrat Courtney Watson, who represents the area. The estate is owned by the college's foundation, which bought it in 2004. But the conference center is losing money and the college wants to eliminate the mortgage debt, while making it a profitable home for its hospitality curriculum.
Watson and critics of the college's program at Belmont want the county to seek state funding and ownership using Program Open Space funds that would restrict what can be built on the historic site.
And since we're on the topic of historic estates, it appears the easements protecting Doughoregan are up and just about anything is on the table.
The end of the agreement with the Maryland Historic Trust, known as a historic easement, allows descendants of Carroll, the Declaration's only Catholic signer, to follow through on plans to develop some of the land to pay for the restoration of their 20-room mansion and 30 other historic buildings while preserving family ownership.It appears there are a few options for the land:
The land covered by the easement is zoned for about 450 homes, and nearby residents say they worry that such development would increase traffic and crowd schools.
"This will probably be the most high-profile easement that ever expired," said Richard Brand, chief financial officer of the Maryland Historic Trust in Annapolis. "Every superlative you can imagine can be used on this property."
- Develop according to existing zoning and infrastructure -- roughly 450 homes, each with well and septic.
- Extend public water and sewer to the property and develop the same amount of houses (I think) but cluster them as far as possible from the manor itself (clustering would not be possible without public infrastructure).
- Sell the development rights to the county for up to $40,000 per acre.
- Some combination of development and preservation.
Such calculations, however, fail to account for the myriad other issues involved in this story. And something tells me there's more to this than what we're reading in the papers.
I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.