The City’s annexations have certainly been written about a lot during the last month, but The Gazette’s editorial of October 8th, contained so many material omissions and so much faulty analysis and erroneous conclusions, that a reply to it is necessary. The Gazette accuses the City of making “several critical mistakes” that constitute a failure to adequately address, schools, fire & rescue services and roads. The Gazette asserts that these failures create an undue tax burden on the County. For the facts and reasons given below, these assertions are unfounded and false.
Schools. The Gazette failed to acknowledge that the City obtained the following benefits from the annexations: (1) $600,000 from Summers towards a school site and park land; and (2) Up to 15 acres from Crumland to be used for an elementary school site. In addition, The Gazette failed to connect the dots to understand how the Thatcher and Crumland properties will pay millions of dollars more to the County than any extra burden they may cause towards schools. The Gazette correctly cited the study by Robert Charles Lesser & Co. which projects that Crumland will bring the City $66 million over a 20-year period. Over the same period the property will bring just as much to the County. This would be enough for the County to build three elementary schools in a 20-year period, and this is just from the Crumland property. The Thatcher property is also projected to bring in additional millions of dollars in tax revenues. Because Thatcher is 100% commercial, and because Crumland is about half commercial, these properties will bring in millions of dollars of revenues to both the City and County in excess of the costs they generate. Not only will these properties pay many times over the cost of new school construction, but the revenues they generate will more than pay for school operating costs that they generate and will support substantial school expenses for the rest of the County. In addition, it must be pointed out that much of the funding for school construction comes from State funds (not just County funds) for which all the Counties compete. The County usually gets a lot of its construction and repair funding from these State funds.
Fire and EMS Services. The Summers property will not have a major effect on these services, but the City has previously stated its intent to make land from the Hargett Farm available for a fire and rescue facility on that side of town. As for the Crumland and Thatcher properties, the City obtained a 22-acre sited that could be used for fire and EMS services. However, the County and City both agree that a different site (probably on the Sanner property) would be more appropriate for this. Land contributions are a beginning of the benefits toward fire and rescue. The cost of increased fire and rescue services generated by the annexations will be substantially less than the revenues to be generated from these properties. Because of the commercial nature of the northern properties, they will be constructed in such a way that the buildings will be as fireproof as possible, with built-in equipment and abilities to combat fires. This is routinely done with multi-million dollar commercial buildings.
Roads. The Gazette says the City made a critical mistake by not requiring Crumland and Thatcher to pay for the interchange on US 15 at Biggs Ford Road. The Gazette is wrong. The way the agreements were structured provides that Crumland cannot develop the commercial part UNLESS the interchange is funded and built. Similarly, Thatcher cannot develop the remaining 70% of its property UNLESS the interchange is funded and built. And the first 30% of Thatcher cannot be developed UNLESSS the Monocacy Blvd. interchange is funded and built. Not only do these agreements fully protect our citizens from growth that gets too far ahead of infrastructure, but these agreements provide strong incentives for these property owners to contribute to the building of both of these interchanges. In addition, both Crumland and Thatcher agreed to contribute the land (50-60 acres) required to build the Biggs Ford interchange. Furthermore, Crumland will pay for and build Willowbrook Road (which will save the City $5 – $8 million).
Conclusion. These three annexations will bring to the City and to the County millions of dollars of revenue in excess of the costs they will generate. To state that these annexations “might financially damage the county” is a criticism without any factual support. To call the City “shortsighted” and “juvenile,” and to accuse the City of “demonstrate[ing] a callous disregard for the financial limits of the county” is erroneous and irresponsible.
Finally, The Gazette was wrong to call the City “anti-democratic” because we are vigorously opposing the petition drive for a referendum vote. In a democratic-republic (which is what our government is), the people elect officials to make the laws. That is what has happened. How is it democratic for some people to call for a referendum vote, but undemocratic for people to oppose it? By urging residents to not sign the petitions for a referendum vote, City officials are exercising the same democratic rights that the anti-annexation, petitioners are exercising. If sufficient petition signatures are obtained, an election will be held, and the debate will continue until referendum vote takes place.