Afzali turns down alternate seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali on Friday rejected an invitation to serve as an alternate member on the county task force discussing local growth issues. She had previously volunteered to join the work group, but Sen. David Brinkley asked Delegate Galen Clagett to take a seat on the panel instead. Brinkley questioned Afzali's impartiality on the issue of creating a transfer tax, an idea she has said she opposes. Clagett, D-District 3A, is unable to attend Tuesday's kickoff meeting of the task force, so Brinkley on Friday sent Afzali an email asking her to represent the Frederick County legislative delegation for that day. But for Afzali, R-4A, serving as an alternate wasn't going to cut it. However, she said she will attend all task force meetings as a member of the audience. "Delegate Clagett doesn't have the time to devote to this very important topic," Afzali said. "I do have the time because I will be there. So maybe it's just time to appoint me the representative on the task force for the delegation."

Underrepresented on growth

Frederick News Post
The growth task force, recently formed by the Board of County Commissioners to investigate ways for development to pay for its impact on our schools, roads, water and sewer supplies, and other infrastructure, lacks a broad enough membership to deliver a comprehensive and fair solution. Groups represented include the Frederick County Association of Realtors, Frederick County Building Industry Association, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, a municipality, and the senior, education and library communities. Elected officials from Frederick County’s delegation of state delegates and senators will also serve — it was the choice of precisely who from that delegation would join the task force that caused some contention earlier this week. Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican who represents northern Frederick County, was rejected as a participant by a fellow Republican, Sen. David Brinkley. Brinkley instead selected Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat, and delegates Patrick Hogan (R) and Galen Clagett (D). While we understand the argument that Young, Hogan and Clagett represent districts that include the city of Frederick, an area naturally suited for more growth, we also understand Afzali’s position that she represents Monrovia, an area in which the debate over development is current and controversial. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley told reporter Bethany Rodgers. Yes, Afzali has an annoying tendency to want to grab headlines, but she makes a good point about the task force’s composition: It has a clear bias toward developers, builders and real estate agents. While we understand that those representatives are some of the key industries affected by either a transfer tax on the sale of existing homes or an impact tax on the sale of new ones, what the group lacks is representation from county residents — the taxpayers — who also have skin in the game.

Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
A state delegate who raised her hand to join a Frederick County growth task force was passed over for appointment after a fellow legislator questioned how “fair and open” she would be on the panel. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, argued she would bring a much-needed perspective to the growth group because her constituents in the eastern areas of the county are among those most affected by local growth issues. In a Nov. 4 letter, she asked Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, to put her on the county-led task force. In response, Brinkley challenged Afzali’s impartiality on the question of creating a transfer tax to fund infrastructure improvements. In a Monday phone interview, he attributed Afzali’s interest in the work group to a desire for publicity. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley said. Despite Afzali’s request for the task force assignment, Brinkley offered the opening to Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, before finally naming Delegate Galen Clagett to the work group. Afzali said her goal is to represent district residents who have concerns about development in the county. Controversial development projects such as the Monrovia Town Center heavily affect her constituents, she noted. Clagett, D-District 3A, represents the city of Frederick, where building does not generate as much opposition, she said. “I’m the one who’s fielding the calls from irate citizens who are going to have the traffic jams and the noise and the safety issues from this kind of growth,” she said.

Wal-Mart, zoning and blight among topics pondered by city officials

Frederick News Post
Ed Waters Jr.
ssues ranging from a proposed downtown hotel to a Wal-Mart on the Golden Mile were informally discussed Friday by Frederick's mayor and aldermen at a meeting with the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. "If the same plan came in without the Wal-Mart name, people would support it," said Alderwoman Shelley Aloi of a proposal to put the big-box store at the former Frederick Towne Mall site on the west side of the city. "It is not our decision to say who goes into a property, it is up to the property owner and the market," Aloi said. "Is the best use for the property residential? No. There is already dense residential use in that area." Alderman Michael O'Connor and others moved to dispel the notion that all businesses on the Golden Mile stretch of U.S. 40 are hurting."Just go out there and see the traffic and the businesses," O'Connor said.

Officials scrap, reduce 202 fees

More than a quarter relate to building, zoning certificate
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
Many of the reductions affect building or remodeling projects. More than a quarter of them relate to building permits and zoning certificates, while 33 others deal with planning and development review fees, according to the list. An additional 45 reductions were to fees for electricity and plumbing permits and licenses. The changes are helpful to those in the construction business but are minimal when compared with overall project costs, said Frank Dertzbaugh, president of a Frederick remodeling company.

Honesty, deceit and Chicken Little

Frederick News Post
John Helms
Commissioner Blaine Young and his allies began their terms talking about the structural deficit. They said things were so bad that they were forced to cut expenses including firing or eliminating staff. Over 175 positions including professional firefighters were ripped from the base of those providing needed services, cutting $8.4 million. They crippled the Head Start program to the tune of $2.3 million. They reduced payments to nonprofit and noncounty agencies by $350,000 and they reduced pay and benefits for employees (including nurses) at the Citizens and Montevue centers to the tune of $625,000 per year. The sky is falling, watch out for the structural deficit! When they thought we weren't looking, they danced with the ones that brung 'em to the dance (good ol' boy language for the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and the Frederick County Builders Association). They dropped the excise tax rate to zero, saving the developers an estimated $925,000 a year. They reduced permitting fees paid by builders by approximately $500,000 per year. In addition they went right to work on a list of over 200 changes given to them by the builders and developers to fix rules and regulations they didn't like or that cost them too much money. Some warned what was happening.

Developers see culture shift in Frederick County’s business approach

Frederick more welcoming under Young board; no public announcements for projects yet
Katherine Heerbrandt
Frederick County’s new motto, “Open for Business,” sets off alarm bells for some, while others offer high praise. But although the barbs and accolades fly, it’s too soon to tell whether the business-friendly focus adopted by Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners in 2011 will have the intended effect of economic growth and lower taxes, said board President Blaine R. Young (R). Although he cannot name any specific projects on the horizon because of the confidential nature of negotiations, he said there is serious interest from companies that want to come to Frederick, including one that might bring 400 jobs to the county.