Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

County returns to growth policy, services survey

Next round of decisions must keep shortfalls in mind

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The County Council returns from its summer recess in less than two weeks. High on its list of priorities is the unresolved growth policy, which was postponed in July and returned to the Planning Board for additional information. Committee meetings on the policy reconvene in October.

For County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), the return also means a return to the growth policy. He proposed his own development tax recommendations to the County Council in July. He also requested the council re-evaluate transportation tests proposed by the Planning Board.

Leggett said he would like to see a growth policy with ‘‘balance and sustainability based on costs that are reasonable between the burdens on new homeowners versus those already here.”

In the meantime, the executive is scheduled to announce plans next week for a countywide survey of services to be sent to 3,000 randomly selected households.

‘‘The survey is intended to get feedback from people on how well county government is doing on a range of services,” said Leggett spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield. ‘‘The survey asks about the responsiveness of county government, as well as trying to determine what people’s most important issues are. This will be a tool to integrate into the rest of our efforts.”

The survey is a culmination of discussion between Leggett and the County Council and will be modeled after Rockville’s biennial surveys, the latest results of which were collected from 3,000 randomly selected households in May. This year’s six-page questionnaire was the fourth time the city has sent out the survey since 2001.

Leggett is also expected to announce his selections for two new Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission members in time for the council’s first meeting on Sept. 11. Lacefield said the hope is that the council will confirm the new commissioners in time for the WSSC’s Sept. 19 meeting.

Also in September, the council begins discussion of the county’s Agricultural Reserve Policy, which includes several recommendations from the Planning Board and from a council-appointed agricultural committee. It also begins preliminary budget discussions with Montgomery College and the public school system. The council will continue with planning for the Base Realignment and Closure plan and its impact on Bethesda.

A council staff report on Clarksburg development districts is also scheduled for release in September. County attorney Leon Rodriguez ruled earlier this month that the development districts are legal and could be used by developers to recoup the costs of roads, schools and other amenities needed in new developments. Clarksburg residents have argued that the districts are illegal and that they were not notified about them when they bought their homes.

Later this fall, Leggett and Pradeep Ganguly, the county’s economic development director, are scheduled to travel to Israel in October and India in November. Leggett and the council are expected to continue discussions on and planning for how the state’s $1.5 billion budget shortfall and the county’s possible $270 million shortfall will affect Montgomery.