Because of an editing change, a statement in yesterday's editions by Montgomery County Council member David Scull was misleading. Scull, who is running for county executive, described his opposition as "faltering" and "the captive of special interest campaign contributions."
Four days before a hearing on proposals that could raise construction costs and curb growth in Montgomery County, Executive Charles W. Gilchrist and council member David Scull touched off the debate yesterday by attacking each other's political motivations for proposing opposing measures.
At the heart of the exchange is whether new construction should be limited and whether taxes or fees need to be added to development projects. The proposed taxes or fees would be used to pay for new services and to place a brake on fast-paced expansion.
The flare-up followed a County Planning Board decision Thursday to recommend that the council, if it approves any revenue-generating measure, choose an excise tax, a type of levy proposed by Scull, instead of an impact fee, a measure recommended by Gilchrist.
As proposed, an excise tax would be added onto the cost of all development in the county and generate money for all county capital projects. The impact fee, as outlined by Gilchrist, would be added to only those developments in designated growth areas with the revenues to be used for specific services or improvements.
Contrasts between the two proposals have been repeatedly emphasized by Gilchrist and Scull in the last few months, a time of increasing concern in a county that is experiencing a development boom and unprecedented traffic congestion.
Gilchrist's impact fee proposal would add $1,300 to the cost of an average new single-family house, tax new commercial development at a rate of $2.40 a square foot and generate about $6 million a year that would pay for half the cost of new roads.
Scull had said earlier that, based on county planning figures, the excise tax should be set at a maximum of $3.25 a square foot. Yesterday, he said he would suggest the fee be set at $2 a square foot, based on revised county figures. That would add $2,300 to the cost of an average house and generate $30 million a year for county services, he said.
The rhetoric intensified yesterday in advance of what is certain to be an emotional meeting Tuesday of pro-growth, slow-growth and no-growth factions in the county. In a year when election hopes are heightening -- Scull is running for county executive and Gilchrist, who is leaving office to become an Episcopal priest, has endorsed state Sen. Sidney Kramer (D-Montgomery) as his successor -- the debate Tuesday will take on added significance.
Gilchrist, in a news conference yesterday, said he believed the "excise tax proposal will do irreparable damage to the county's reputation of fiscal management . . . and poison the opportunities for homeowners in the middle class."
Gilchrist dismissed the planning board's recommendation as "politically irresponsible." Questioning the mathematics of the proposal suggested by Scull, Gilchrist said he would veto such legislation.
In a public statement released in response to Gilchrist's news conference, Scull said Gilchrist's statements were "outrageously prodevelopment and an attempt to prop up" the campaign of Kramer, who described his opposition as "faltering" and "the captive of special interest campaign contributions."
Scull said the impact fee would not generate enough money, "unfairly" make a few pay for development and "open the floodgates for massive development."