- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland’s municipalities may face off against the state’s counties in the legislature next year over the vexing issue of annexation because a working committee failed to find a compromise between the two groups.

The Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) is preparing legislation to govern the annexation process, according to a report yesterday in the Baltimore Daily Record.

The Maryland Municipal League (MML) will make fighting that legislation a priority, the newspaper said.

For many of the state’s 157 cities and towns, annexation would offer them an opportunity to expand their jurisdictions and enlarge their tax base.

However, for many of the 23 counties, annexation would trim their jurisdictions and could affect the counties’ facilities.

An annexation work group, composed of representatives of the two groups, held a series of meetings with the state planning department this year in the hope of finding a middle ground.

The two sides agreed there ought to be a joint planning process, said Richard Hall, director of land use and planning analysis for the state planning department.

“But it was truly a case of the devil is in the details. We just couldn’t get there with those groups,” Mr. Hall said.

The talks fell apart after the county representatives wanted to talk about growth boundaries around municipalities, while not discussing growth boundaries around unincorporated growth areas, said Candace Donoho, director of government relations for the MML.

“I guess our frustration is that during the course of the discussions at the work-group meetings, although [MACO] seemed to want to focus the discussion on annexation itself, it became evident that you can’t separate annexation from growth, and growth is the issue that everyone needs to be dealing with,” Miss Donoho said.

“Our position is that annexation is a legal process that is used to bring development into municipalities,” Miss Donoho said.

But the counties, especially those on the Eastern Shore, fear developers sometimes use annexation to skirt certain environmental restrictions and fees for infrastructure development, particularly schools and libraries.

“There are a number of good annexations out there. We don’t want to end or outlaw annexation,” said Leslie Knapp Jr., associate director of MACO. “But there has really been a number of egregious abuses of the annexation process.”

An example was the town of Trapp in Talbot County. It annexed a 924-acre development, of which 189 acres sat outside the county’s designated growth area.

“The county previously did not think it was a good area for growth, but developers can get around that by bringing it into the town,” Mr. Knapp said.

Mr. Hall said the planning department will try to write a proposal that all groups can agree on next year.

“If MACO and MML sign onto it, great,” he said. “But if they don’t, we’ll have to live with it.”

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