Saturday, February 25, 2006

Paul and Goliath

Today's Post runs a profile of Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association, who is leading the effort to bring the illegal builder of the Little Dobbins Island home to justice.


Friday, February 24, 2006

School Board Election Speculation

For yet another year, it appears that efforts to get an elected school board are going to die in the State House [scroll down], and there's a difference of opinion on the topic among those local County Executive candidates running for office in November.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Severn River Commission Beats the Horse Park

The Sun reports that the head of the Severn River Commission, Lina Vlavianos, has sent a letter to Janet Owens, contending that the Maryland Stadium Authority has been "minimizing the potential impact of this project on the environment and the infrastructure.".


Sunday, February 19, 2006

County Incompetence Costs Big Money

The failure of the Owens' administration to properly spend $40 million in collected impact fees has cost county taxpayers nearly $500,000 in court, and could potentially costs millions more.

By not spending the money quickly enough, and in the appropriate locations, the County has opened itself to several costly lawsuits where developers and residents are seeking the return of their funds. In addition, funds that have been available for badly needed infrastructure upgrades have gone unspent.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Taking Willy Don Down a Notch

Kudos to the Capital editorial board for finally taking it to King Don. Annapolis' biggest bully has once again put his foot in his mouth and managed to insult those Marylanders who think other people should be treated with at least a modicum of decency.


Callahan Prepares to Announce

Like so many other political announcements, Dennis Callahan's intention to run for County Executive has been one of the worst kept secrets around. Apparently, the current Director of Recreation and Parks is planning to make it official at the Crofton Country Club, Saturday at noon. The Democrat's main competition in the primary is currently George Johnson. No word yet on Barbara Samorajczyk's final plans.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Inspections and Permits, Under Fire

Spurge Eismeier, head of the County Department of Inspections and Permits has come under fire, and for good reason: His agency has dropped the ball, or missed the ball on a number of high profile cases recently. In the past, Mr. Eismeier has claimed he has enough inspectors to do the job properly. Reality would seem to contradict that statement.


Gambrills Farm Gets Public Hearing

Three entities vying for the former Horizon Dairy Farm, Sunrise Organic Farms, the Maryland Stadium Authority, and a gravel mining firm made their case last night for use/abuse of the bucolic agricultural site.

A Sun piece on the same meeting confirms what was fairly obvious from the beginning, most of the folks in Gambrills who care about the farm don't want its use to change. "We don't want development, no golf course, housing development ... or horse park," offered one former member of the Odenton-area small area planning committee.


State of the Magothy Report

The condition of the Magothy River is improving, as measured by submerged aquatic vegetation, false mussel, and nutrient levels.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Greater Crofton Council - 1

Yesterday, the Four Seasons Community Association declared its intention to drop out of the Greater Crofton Council as a result of Torrey Jacobson's irresponsible leadership decisions.


Spending Money for Open Space

A piece in last week's Post described how Executive Owens would like to spend the $16.1 million that the Governor's proposed budget contains for county open space funding.


Monday, February 13, 2006

An Accumulation of 8 to 10 inches of Good News

Some good news on the legal front. The Department of Justice and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General are taking the Costellos, the couple who brazenly filled in a 1/4 acre of the Bay, to court.

Local Delegate, Virginia Clagett (D - 30), has introduced a bill to prevent the commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins, the State reptile. This may upset connoisseurs of terrapin soup and the 5 to 9 watermen who harvest the terrapins each year. Too bad. If we're going to save the Bay, and its inhabitants, we need to get serious. I'd like to see a similar bill for crabs and oysters, and a resolution condemning the fact that Virginia is allowing the menhaden fishery to be decimated, once again threatening the striped bass.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Wrap-Ups

The Maryland Department of the Environment wants to add parts of the Severn, South, West and Rhode rivers and Parker Creek to the Impaired Surface Waters list.

Turns out the sewage that dumped into Mill Creek is still a big problem.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Duke of Gloucester Street Project

An important article in the Post on the migration of DC's K Street culture to the narrow lanes of Annapolis.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Trying to Give Septics a Free Ride

In 2004, the Governor and House of Delegates passed the landmark "flush fee," requiring homeowners across the state to pay $30/year into a fund to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities and provide grants to replace failing septic systems and help farmers plant cover crops. Now, a group of Senators and Delegates wants to scrap the portion of the bill that requires septic system owners to pay into the fund. There's apparently such a clamoring for this change, that the supporters of the bill couldn't find anyone to come out and testify on its behalf during the hearing before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The anti-environmental bill is being backed locally by the usual suspects: Sen. Janet Greenip, R-Crofton; Del. Don Dwyer Jr., R-Glen Burnie, Del. John R. Leopold, R-Pasadena; and Del. Tony McConkey, R-Severna Park. If you are "represented" by any of these folks, please put a call in to their office and tell them how displeased you are with their attack on $12 million to help families replace failing septic systems and farmers plant crops that help to absorb nutrients from their fields.

The Governor deserves credit for shepherding a bill that goes a long way towards addressing the nutrient problems affecting the Bay. He should get his minions on board and ask them to drop their feckless tilting at toilets.


Smart Growth, Annapolis Style

An interesting piece in the Post about the infill development going in behind the Annapolis post office on Church Circle.

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Growing Gravel

From the "You Have Got to be Kidding Me" files comes a Sun report that a sand and gravel mining company has submitted a proposal to purchase the Gambrills organic farm that some want to turn into a horse stadium complex.

Federal law requires the land remain agricultural. I don't suspect any local congresscritters are foolish enough to lobby to change that.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mill Creek Sewage Spill Follow-Up

There is a meeting at Anne Arundel Community College with the Health Department, Public Works and political representatives on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7pm for the public to express their concerns about the Mill Creek sewage spill in December. Mill Creek is a tributary of the Magothy River.

If you would like to learn more about the causes of the pipe rupture, or ask questions of County officials, you are encouraged to attend.

The meeting will be at AACC, 101 College Pkwy, Florestano Building, Room 101 from 7-9pm.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

February Follies

Wednesday's Capital leads off with a piece on Delegate Dwyer's erstwhile effort to get enough signatures on a petition to force his anti-gay marriage bill before the House. Thankfully, he's failed at that task thus far. The article reveals a potential side benefit of the recent judicial ruling which concluded, preventing gay marriage violates the State constitution: Bigoted Anne Arundel County Clerk of the Court Robert P. Duckworth would refuse to officiate same-sex ceremonies, hopefully leading to his being frog-marched from office, and allowing him to join the horde of countless unknown individuals who allowed their principled prejudices to drive them into the ranks of the unemployed. [Post profile on the man some are calling the "Anne Arundel Ayatollah"]

In more pleasant news, increasing tax assessments seem to be the talk of the town. On Tuesday evening, Eastport hosted a meeting to inform local residents about the process to appeal increasing property tax assessments. For instance, one resident who purchased her waterfront home in Eastport in 1996 for $367,000 had her property assessed at $1.7 million earlier this year. While, on the one hand, it's difficult to muster pity for people whose homes quadrupled in value over the past decade, it's easy to see how such a valuation could certainly squeeze people's pocketbooks. I've been thinking about this a fair amount, and trying to come up with an equitable solution. Certainly, appealing the assessment is one tactic, but really it's only temporary measure. Property values will keep climbing, and it's not hard at all to believe that waterfront property in Annapolis would have a low end of $1 million. How about this as a compromise:

  • The homeowner's assessment is locked in at the purchase price of the home, and that assessment can only climb by a fixed percentage (say 5%) per year, even though the potential sales price of the home may go up by 15-20% per year.

  • The catch is the State's "real assessment" stays in place, and for each year their is a discrepancy between the amount the homeowner pays, and the amount they would pay under the State assessment, a running balance is kept.

  • At the date of sale, that running balance comes due, and is paid out of the profits from the home sale.

    So, as an example, Jane Homeowner buys her home in 2006. Property values climb 17% per year, and her property tax payment is $1 for every $100 dollars of assessed value:

    YearHome ValueHomeowner's Assessed ValueActual PaymentPotential PaymentDifference

    In 2011, Jane decides to sell for the market value. She receives about $87,388 in profit, but her running tax balance is $1,487. After the balance is paid, she takes away $85,501 from the deal. She's happy, the State is happy, and the taxes get paid, albeit a bit later. I'd welcome any constructive feedback.

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