Lusby, MD – A plan that could result in the creation of a third municipality in Calvert County was the subject of a lengthy, well-attended public hearing Tuesday evening, July 11. The Calvert County Commissioners presided over the session regarding the proposed formation of Calvert Shores, an incorporated town that would include a heavily populated bayside municipality—Chesapeake Ranch Estates (CRE)—along with several businesses in the Lusby Town Center and two county facilities. The hearing at Patuxent High School in Lusby was for the purpose of giving the commissioners an idea of how those affected by such a change feel about having the issue on the ballot during the next election. One commissioner, Mike Hart [R – District 1], recused himself since his business lies within the proposed parameters.
Last June the commissioners rejected a request from an advocacy committee for the incorporation of the proposed area. That group then presented a petition for a referendum. In analyzing the original request, county government staff cited such concerns as higher taxes, quality of services, infrastructure, law enforcement/public safety, inspections/zoning enforcement, and infrastructure and maintenance.
“The municipality will be taking on a lot of responsibility and liability,” stated County Administrator Terry Shannon in a memo to the commissioners in June 2016 before the vote was taken. “It does not appear that the budget includes sufficient funds to cover the cost of information technology hardware, software etc.”
“The proposal does not lower taxes,” Department of Finance and Budget Director Tim Hayden stated during a presentation at the hearing. “You will see an increase in taxes.”
During the public comment segment, several speakers took issue with Hayden’s claim. “It’s baloney,” said CRE resident Anthony Thomas. Ed Harvey, a former president of the Property Owners Association of CRE disagreed that a municipality would be costlier for residents of the subdivision. He cited the “double process” involved in CRE’s special taxing district (STD), adding that county engineers and CRE’s engineers have to coordinate all projects. Additionally, creating a municipality would increase property values, Harvey stated.
Another CRE resident, Carly M. Brooks, stated, “we are not privy to a lot of services available to other areas in Calvert County although we are almost 7.5 percent of the county’s total population.” Among the county services CRE does without, said Brooks, are roadway maintenance, additional snow removal and stormwater management. “It would be tremendous if as Calvert Shore we were able to apply for state and federal grants and loans, request help with cliff erosion, in the event of a devastating hurricane or tornado we could qualify for FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency’s) aid.”
Those opposed to the creation of Calvert Shores expressed concerns about introducing more government into residents’ lives. “There’s no justification for creating another layer of government,” declared Dr. David Rogers, who served several years as Calvert County’s health officer. Rogers affirmed that as Calvert grew in population since the 1970s county services improved.
Another resident stated if the municipality costs more money, she and her husband “can’t stay here. It will price us out.” She also expressed concerns about CRE opening its amenities, such as its beaches, to non-residents.
Arguably the most passionate pleas of the hearing came from those who want the issued settled by the residents in a referendum. “In little over a year more than 2,000 signatures were collected to petition the county government to allow a referendum vote to form a municipality, a municipality charter, issue papers and financial reports were also written and submitted to the county commissioners,” stated CRE resident Bernard Wunder. “in June 2016 the BOCC put our petition on their meeting agenda and in a matter of a few minutes rejected the petition, throwing out hundreds of hours of work done by a few volunteers. I could have accepted the commissioners’ vote if it had been based on fact and analysis, but was instead misinformation, conjecture and very little data analysis. Does the wisdom of five individual commissioners not even living in the community trump the vote of 6,000 people? I personally might want higher taxes if I could get better services or things that provide a better quality of life but that is for the people to decide.”
“I hate to think of you guys as obstructionists,” said CRE property owner Ron Nehas.
The commissioners voted to hold the record open for two weeks before making a decision on whether to advance the issue to a referendum. For more information on the Calvert Shores proposal, visit the Calvert County Government web site.
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org