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New Year, New Faces in HC Government

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Allan Kittleman took the oath of office on the evening of Dec. 4 at Glenelg High School in Glenelg, becoming Howard County’s second Republican county executive.

Councilmembers Calvin Ball (D-Dist. 2), Jen Terrasa (D-Dist. 3), Mary Kay Sigaty (D-Dist. 4) and Greg Fox (R-Dist. 5) also were installed for their third term, joined by Jon Weinstein (D) who begins his first term as the District 1 councilman.

“I sat in your seat for six years, and I know the importance of having a good working relationship between the county executive and the county council,” Kittleman said. “I commit to doing everything in my power to ensure that together we make Howard County an even greater place to live.”

Kittleman began his tenure by focusing on preparation of his own Capital and Operating Budgets for fiscal 2016 and held the first of a series of related public hearings on Dec. 17.

He directed county department heads to prepare budget reductions to trim spending by 5% for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. That announcement came in response to revenue estimates showing an unexpected deficit of $14 million, caused by lower than anticipated revenues from income taxes and recordation taxes from home sales.

“This is not a prospect anyone welcomes, but we must face fiscal reality,” Kittleman said. “We are confident prudent action now will avert more serious consequences down the road.”

The Kittleman administration is considering numerous cost-cutting strategies, including possible transfers from Pay-go funding for long-term projects.

First Actions

Among the priorities Kittleman announced at the outset of December was his intention to name members of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) task force to review and strengthen laws governing the requirement for adequate public facilities in making decisions concerning growth and future development.

A new cabinet-level Department of Aging has also been proposed, and Kittleman said he would like to review and expand upon former County Executive Ken Ulman’s Mental Health task force.

In mid-December, Kittleman made good on his promise to issue an executive order repealing the ban on the sale of soft drinks with high sugar content on county property and at county events.

“We fully support efforts to control obesity and disease caused by poor eating habits and to encourage regular exercise,” he said. “Better education is the key to dealing with this issue, not simple bans.”

Jessica Feldmark, chief of staff to the former county executive, assumed a new role in January, taking over the position held by longtime Council Administrator Sheila Toliver. Toliver entered retirement for a second time after a career that included three separate terms as council administrator, serving from 1992 through 1994, 1999 through 2009 and from 2013 through 2014.

Ag Preservation

In its first legislative public hearing, the new council began consideration of a zoning amendment that would expand the county’s agricultural preservation program by adding properties with Residential: Environmental Development (R-ED) zoning.

“We’ve come across a property that is split zoned both R-ED and RC (Rural Conservation), and it’s also split in terms of the boundary for the public water and public sewer area,” said Department of Planning and Zoning Director Marsha McLaughlin.

The 51-acre property is located between the Howard County Conservancy and Patapsco Valley State Park.

“This could affect other properties, but so far we’ve only had one come forward,” McLaughlin said. “There are a few larger properties, primarily in the Gorman Road area; they have not expressed interest to date, but they could be candidates.”

Another resolution before the council involves a Payment in Lieu of Taxes [PILOT] proposal for Riverwatch Elkridge, a KB Companies development. According to county Department of Housing and Community Development [HCD] Director Tom Carbo, state and federal financing rules require that half of the households in the 84-unit, mixed income townhouse community be made available to households with incomes up to 60% of the Baltimore area median income.

Respective rates for these units would range from $850 to $1,170 per month, with the remainder between $1,900 and $2,400.

“[HCD] has determined that the PILOT is necessary in order to make the project financially feasible,” Carbo said.

Voicing opposition to the resolution, Leslie Kornreich, of Hanover, questioned the effect the project would have on county infrastructure. “This project should not be built in the attendance area of already overcrowded schools,” she said.

Stuart Kohn of Laurel also opposed the resolution in light of large-scale projects in the surrounding areas of North Laurel, Maple Lawn and Hanover.

“I would hope that this council would take into consideration the APFO and the amount of people that are coming into the east,” Kohn said. “We are not against Moderate Income Housing Units; it’s a matter of concentration.”

Homeless Services

Department of Public Works Director Jim Irvin informed the council of changes needed to assure the construction of a supportive housing facility and Day Resource Center for the homeless in southern Howard County.

A previous approval to convey 1.7 acres of the 8-acre site on Guilford Road east of Route 1 does not meet zoning standards for the project, he said.

“The Housing Commission … is asking the county to approve an additional three acres,” Irvin said.

Carbo testified that the current Day Resource Center is outdated and no longer meets program needs.

According to Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center Director Andrea Ingram, the supportive housing component would provide housing for approximately 33 chronically homeless individuals who meet eligibility standards.

“The residential program will be managed by Volunteers of America and will have 24-hour supervision, case management and access to whatever services residents need,” she said. “The majority of them will pay rent, many of them will be employed and all of them will be off the street.”

Several county residents requested for a delay in council action until they could learn more about the plans. “The size and scope of this was something the community wanted to address, and they haven’t had the opportunity,” said Brent Loveless of Laurel.

Susan Garber, president of the Savage Community Association, said her organization was “blindsided” by the project and was unable to schedule a community meeting with Volunteers of America and county officials until after the council is expected to vote on the resolution.

“I believe this project in its current location serves the common good, but the scale is beyond what’s appropriate for the neighborhood,” Loveless said, suggesting that the housing component be spread across the county’s five council districts. “Homeless people aren’t just located up and down Route 1.”

“Their [Day Resource Center] services are incredible,” said Garber. “It would be wonderful if some of the money could be spent on being able to provide those services more than three half-days a week.”