After nearly four months of bitter controversy and at least one lawsuite, a plan by New Carollton to annex the Metro business triangle and two neightboring communities will go before city voters at a special advisory referedum Monday.
With a decision nearing, opponents calling annexation a " [WORD ILLEGIBLE] land grab" faced supporters who termed the proposal a "protective Godsend" at a public hearing last week at st. Christopher's Episcopal Church.
In keeping with most of the proceedings that have surrounded the annexation question, the hearing was marked by expressions of outrage. Several of the two dozen speakers complained angrily that individuals were allotted just two minutes each to air their views, while New Carrollton Mayor Jordan Harding's two impassioned speeches tookup a sizable portion of the two-hour session.
City Administrator John Brunner began the hearing with a detailed explanation of a nine-page statement provided by the city, which reported on the benefits of annexation. At least 20 municipal services, zoning protections, beautification, refuse collection and a yearly tax savings of $32.90 are among the benefits that would be received by newly annexed residents in West Lanham and West Lanham Hills, Brunner said.
Harding followed with a plea that citizens "look closely at the facts and not be misled or misguided by a lot of emotionalism."
A "get the mayor" campaign has clouded the annexation question, Harding said. "The city government is open, and we will not let anyone impugn our reputation with deceitful rhetoric."
State Sen. Thomas O'Reilly (D-23rd) led the testimony by asking the city to withdraw the annexation proposal. "There's no such thing as a free lunch," O'Reilly said, cautioning residents that New Carrollton may be forced to expand its government and increase taxes to handle the annexed areas.
But he said his major opposition stems from the detrimental impact of annexation on efforts to "bring good, clean business" to the area. "Prince George's County is getting the reputation of attempting to discourage business," said O'Reilly, citing the "chilling effect" produced by the prospect of additional city taxes.
The controversy revolves around efforts by the city to annex a tax-rich, 263-acre parcel slated to house a multi-million-dollar industrial, hotel and commercial complex called Metro East. The annexation would include the 282 homes of the communities of West Lanham and West Lanham Hills and give the city an estimated $214,800 in revenues in 1983.
Representatives of those two communities seemed to comprise the majority of the audience, and several spoke out strongly in favor of annexation.
"In unity there is strength," said Bronson Row, West Lanham Hills Citizens' Association president. "With Metro here many problems face us, and if we stand unincorporated we are as a lamb for the slaughter."
"The thing I fear is greed that comes from a facility of the nature and type that is on our doorstep," echoed Bobby Todd, a seven-year West Lanham resident. "I want my piece of the action protected."
"And we know how quickly the county reacts," said West Lanham resident Barbara Bessant, noting that residents have repeatedly petitioned for a traffic light without success. "There isn't even a crosswalk painted."
A handful of New Carrollton residents and several representatives of the Metro East business community voiced opposition to the annexation plan.
"I feel if they annex West Lanham, this will only compound our problems," said New Carrollton resident Rose Hurdle, whose bedroom window is 86 feet from the city Pubic Works Department. Hurdle, a city resident for 15 years, contends that the city has given only idle promises to aid residents who live next to the mainte-nance yard. "Will they (West Lanham residents) receive the same treatment as some of the citizens in New Carrollton are receiving?"
"An additional tax would make it harder for us to compete with other jurisdictions, particularly in light of the fact that it would mean no additional services," said Claiborn Carr III, an employe of Rouse & Associates, a firm that is developing two projects in the Metro East complex. "We would be merely having to charge more rent in an already competitive market."
If New Carrolition citizens vote for annexation Monday, the City Council is expected to pass an annexation resolution at its Dec. 6 meeting. Should residents vote against annexation, Mayor Harding has promised he will drop the annexation proposal.
If the citizens' vote is favorable to annexation, residents of West Lanham and West Lanham Hills would have 45 days after council action to petition for a referendum in their areas. Or, the Prince George's County Council could request such a referendum. If the citizens of the two communities vote against annexation, the city annexation resolution would be declared void.