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Workforce Housing
Fritz Griesinger

November 5, 2008

Housing values have plummeted putting many more houses on the market making this ordinance unnecessary.

While most county council proclaim transparency, nothing could be further from the truth. The original legal notice had to do with TDR, not housing. It started out as low and moderate income housing but promoted questions as to what that was? Council belatedly didn't want that image so the ordinance was retitled to moderate income. That still didn't suit so council changed the ordinance, this time to workforce housing for groups such as teachers, paramedics, police and other professionals although the ordinance still contained all the same incentives aka subsidies, waivers and inducements An overlooked provision of this lengthy and complex ordinance is by right which means that Land Use - Coons, can double existing density to which neighbors and council may have previously agreed to in the original rezoning. The by right provision means that this can be done administratively without any public input. It would seem to me to be blatant bait and switch, stealth rezoning. Where is the transparency and public involvement not to mention the 07 Comp Plan assurances concerning community fabric and qualify of life?

When the fit hit the shan, council, as if rehearsed, dodged the issue with self righteous pontification that the good news was they were behind the community 100% (sometimes 1,000%) but the bad news was council was prohibited by ordinance from making changes if the project meets the code. Not quite. Several times a year Land Use introduces an omnibus ordinance to make as many as 15 to 20 changes to the UDC. The changes are requested by developers and because there are so many changes, the legal notice is vague and the changes rarely receive much discussion by the Planning Board. If you or I tried to participate in this process, Land Use would direct us to our council person. Council likes this because they are insulated from public input. For instance, council or Land Use could eliminate the by right provision through this process. The ordinance anticipated 300 low and moderate income units costing the county $300,000 in fees. We already have about 3,000 approved units costing the taxpayers $3 million.

Many of you who attend Land Use hearings often hear "what you see is what you get" once an approved record plan is filed. That is bull when the time and costs to submit a new record plan are not the hardship developers and Land Use would have us believe.

Council offers the simplistic solution that if the public doesn't like council's performance, they can vote out the offenders. We may be crazy but we're not stupid when you consider that most of council lives in safe districts and have the great advantage of incumbency. Striking fear to the hearts of council is that the legislature can, and should become involved.

Please don't think that you don't have any input. You do. You get 3 minutes at the Planning Board and 3 minutes at council committee meetings unless they run out of time. Of course you also get 3 minutes at county council meetings. All of this input is strictly limited to the 3 minute ceremonial time limit assuming you plow your way through the council agenda web site or the abbreviated legal notices on the outside rear page of the Saturday News Journal local section. Council told us that eliminating notices from local papers wasn't to limit public awareness but to save money.

 


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