Montgomery county executive candidate Sidney Kramer, upstaged in recent months by rival David Scull's fierce attack on the pace of local development, called yesterday for milder restraints on growth that would limit building permits "only as a last resort."
At a news conference in Gaithersburg, in the heart of one of the fastest-growing areas in Maryland, Kramer proposed a series of changes in the way Montgomery government officials have dealt with the practical and political problems of the county's recent explosive growth.
In effect, Kramer called for a balance between robust economic growth and maintaining adequate roads and other public facilities.
"The only course this community can take is one which controls our growth rate but doesn't stop it in its tracks," said Kramer, who plans to leave the Maryland Senate to run in the September Democratic primary against Scull, a County Council member, and David Robbins, a county government official.
Robbins quickly attacked Kramer's proposal yesterday as "politically expedient." Both he and Scull suggested that Kramer proposed the milder restrictions to mollify supporters in the county's business community.
Montgomery real estate developers and other local business persons have contributed $85,000 of the more than $125,000 that Kramer has so far raised for his campaign.
Kramer yesterday brushed aside criticism of the donations, saying that many developers, including those who support him, "will not be pleased" by all elements of his plan.
Kramer's proposal, an opening salvo in what promises to be an expensive and bitter campaign, called for a change in state law that would grant the county executive new power to veto land-use master plans, zoning amendments and subdivision regulations. Under Kramer's plan, the seven-member County Council would still be the premier agency governing land use and could override any executive veto with five votes.
Kramer also called for:
*A public-private partnership of van pooling, shuttle buses and staggered working hours to alleviate traffic congestion.
*An immediate inventory of the roughly 40,000 housing units that have been approved by the county but are not yet built. County government today cannot stall construction of those homes, but an inventory would allow officials to "weed out those (developers) who do not plan to build in the foreseeable future," Kramer said.
*The imposition of "impact" fees that builders would pay to county government in exchange for the right to open new housing developments. Kramer said revenue generated by the fees should be earmarked for new road construction.
*Creation of a new committee, made up of representatives of all branches of county government and civic groups, to monitor land-use planning in Montgomery.
Many of Kramer's ideas were not original. For instance, a variation on the "impact" fees has been a staple of administration of County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist for years. Similarly, the proposed change in state law to increase the role of the executive in land-use planning is the centerpiece of Gilchrist's legislative package in Annapolis this winter.
Kramer's overall proposal to manage growth is very similar to one proposed last week by County Council member R. Scott Fosler, whose plan was designed to soften the effects of a separate measure sponsored by Scull.
For most of 1985, Scull hammered away at Montgomery's unprecedented growth as the most pressing issue facing the affluent county. A member of the same county council that approved several large land developments, Scull called for drastic limits on building permits across the county.
Scull's proposal sparked howls of protest from developers, while Fosler's plan -- with its minor variations -- won some grudging approval from builders.
Kramer, hoping to walk the political middle ground between a business community that wants to flourish and civic groups demanding slower growth, said yesterday a cap on building permits should be used "only as a last resort."
"Exaggerated political rhetoric about building caps and shutdowns have set our business community against our citizens, our upcounty against our downcounty," said Kramer, sounding an early campaign theme