The Montgomery County Council, which has been wrangling for months over whether development should be better harnessed in the fast-growing county, has been given another, last-minute proposal from a council member that could again draw out debate over the issue.
Council member Esther Gelman said last week she needed more financial data before she could decide whether the county needed to impose a building limit or fee and taxes on new development in order to pay for more services. But yesterday she said she plans to offer three financial packages during a work session today that would eliminate the need for a building limit and provide the county with more money.
According to Gelman's proposal, based on council finance figures, the county could generate money for services by imposing a 10-cent property tax that would generate $115 million over the next six years, a $1-a-square-foot excise tax on new development that would generate $100 million over the next six years or a combination of the two taxes that would charge taxpayers a 50-cent assessment on new property and a 5-cent tax on all property holdings and would generate $100 million.
"If I can get this through, then I'm not prepared to vote for caps now," said Gelman, adding that the building cap proposal, originally offered by council member and county executive candidate David Scull, had not been "well-enough thought out" and would be "too big of an intrusion" on development.
Debate over the issue has generated hundreds of phones calls, a barrage of letters, a sophisticated campaign by the business community to thwart restrictions and dire predictions about what the limitations would mean to the economic health of the county.
Gelman, who is leaving the council to run for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District seat, has indicated in preliminary votes that she supported a limit on the number of building permits that could be granted in certain areas of the county. But last week she said she would not vote for a limit until the council decided what kinds of revenues it could raise to pay for services.
She said her proposals today would offer a compromise to proponents of the restrictions, including Scull, and County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, a consistent critic of an excise tax and a building limit. Gilchrist has proposed that the County Council approve a fee charged to new developers that would pay for half the cost of new roads in the county.
Lewis Roberts, chief administrative officer for the executive, said yesterday that Gilchrist has "said unequivocably that he will veto any building cap or excise tax proposal . . . . He feels the impact fee is the appropriate way to target and guide growth."