A live video link to the county council’s July 26 meeting was available on YouTube, and it’s at the county site now; but there were also audio difficulties. Should detailed information be of interest, a transcript could be helpful.
Here’s good news. The balloon festival is coming to Talbot County, and the temporary closing of Three Bridge Branch Road is facilitating that event on August 5 and 6. This closing was passed unanimously.
The meeting then moved on to our mid-shore waste management agreement with four neighboring counties. We were reminded of the economy of scale, and more good news. The recycling program has resulted in an 8% downtick in volume over the past two years. A generator was discussed as a possibility, but it’s high maintenance. A new landfill site may be required soon, and that possibility generated reminders that an election is coming up.
On to a hearing for Bill 1522. The county would borrow $24.9 million for the construction and/or reconstruction of a county health department and public safety facility. A bond could be issued; but recognizing that this was a complex project, and one that’s not particularly time sensitive, the council voted unanimously for a “third reader.” And this would very likely be “pushed into the next council.”
Resolution 331 was up for a vote. The comprehensive water and sewer plan would be amended so that two parcels on Matthewstown Rd. could be amended to S1, W1, immediate priority. Audio was still breaking up, but it seems the proposal for the development of 200 homes would now include affordable housing. 120 apartment units are planned, with open space.
The council’s concerns included the traffic generated by 200 homes and 120 apartments. There has been no traffic study, and the development’s impact upon the county’s schools must also be taken into consideration. Our schools comprise roughly 50% of the county’s budget, and they are currently at capacity. There were also concerns regarding “other additions to the community,” such as EMT. Traffic and safety were priorities.
Council member Divilio recognized that we will very likely “see a new school built within the next 20 years,” but they are “packed now.” There was general agreement that the county should have a traffic and impact study, and that the developer should contribute to funding these expenses.
This discussion was both somewhat surprising and refreshing, as these concerns were not voiced during hearings for a development of 2,500 homes in Trappe. The developer had provided a six-figure contribution, and a spray wastewater facility would be constructed; but as council member Laura Price observed this evening, “Thousands of new pupils” would be a concern, as “a million bucks isn’t going to go far into building a school.”
Impact fees were then discussed, and Price summarized, “ Developers must chip in.”
Divilio wondered, “Would we say ‘no’ to a developer because he wouldn’t build us a new school?”
After some discussion, agreement was reached that both municipalities and developers must do more for the county. There was also a suggestion that while developers and new residents would contribute to these expenses, taxes could up. We want “orderly and manageable growth,” and a town tax could help fund our county schools.
Al Silverstein of the Easton Town Council concurred, ”The town and county have to work together.” Many of the town’s concerns had been focused upon wastewater. We’re doing well there, but “we need housing.”
Then we had public comments. Greg Gannon, real estate developer for Gannon Farm Estates on Matthewstown Rd., suggested all was “settled with Easton Utilities.” (Audio still not clear at this mike. There could be more.) County council candidate Keasha Haythe also expressed her concern for a lack of public awareness of these matters.
Council Vice President Pete Lesher appreciated movement in the direction of affordable housing, and Corey Pack suggested that these matters be set aside for further consideration at their August 23 meeting. That passed unanimously.
Several county appointments and administrative matters were also reviewed and passed; and with no further public comment, this meeting adjourned at 9:04 pm. The next county council meeting will be held at 6 pm on August 9.
Carol Voyles is a graphic designer/illustrator who retired to the Eastern Shore and became interested in politics. She serves as communications chair for the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.