Holes in economist’s rec­om­men­da­tions

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum -

Even though the Calvert County Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers praised its eco­nomic con­sul­tant’s rec­om­men­da­tions for pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth in the county from 2017 through 2022, the report suf­fered from two weak­nesses.

The first was an over­es­ti­mate of the ben­e­fits of Do­min­ion taxes for the county. The report said that “the tax rev­enue im­pli­ca­tions [of Do­min­ion taxes] are sim­ply mas­sive.” Ac­cord­ing to County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Terry Shan­non, most of the $25 mil­lion Do­min­ion paid this year was ab­sorbed by pay­ment of $21 mil­lion into county re­tire­ment ben­e­fits. The BOCC de­serves credit for fund­ing this vi­tal pro­tec­tion of re­tirees’ ben­e­fits, but this also left very lit­tle for the rec­om­mended “mas­sive in­cen­tives” for agribusiness.

An­other prob­lem is that the BOCC granted Do­min­ion a fixed sched­ule of real es­tate tax pay­ments through 2023 that is proba- bly lower than it would have been with­out a PILOT. That agree­ment granted Do­min­ion a 42 per­cent re­duc­tion in taxes from 2024 to 2032, av­er­ag­ing $40 mil­lion a year. This credit was ne­go­ti­ated by for­mer com­mis­sioner, now del­e­gate, Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s). Given that Do­min­ion had no other op­tion for mak­ing liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas ex­ports, that large a con­ces­sion was not nec­es­sary. With­out that credit, a lot more funds would be avail­able to pro­mote agribusiness and meet fu­ture county needs.

The sec­ond weak­ness is the rec­om­mended “rad­i­cal ac­cel­er­a­tion” in de­vel­op­ment of town cen­ters with­out men­tion­ing Lusby and mak­ing only pass­ing men­tion of Solomons. Lusby has long been ig­nored by the BOCC. We in south­ern Calvert need the recre­ational and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in the report. Yet “Mt. Gott” (a large mound of soil in the mid­dle of the town cen­ter) re­mains a trib­ute to this ne­glect. The BOCC’s vote to pre­vent the Ch­e­sa­peake Ranch Es­tates from vot­ing on whether to form a new mu­nic­i­pal­ity was an­other dis­in­cen­tive for de­vel­op­ing this town cen­ter.

Fi­nally, the report made a sweep­ing state­ment that “there is a paucity of de­vel­opable com­mer­cial land” in the county, even though the large plot of land that sur­rounds Mt. Gott re­mains avail­able, as is the Patux­ent Busi­ness Park. Fur­ther­more, Do­min­ion will soon be leav­ing Off­site Area A at Cove Point Road and Route 2/4. Iron­i­cally, the BOCC lacks funds to de­velop this site in part be­cause of tax con­ces­sions it granted to Do­min­ion.

If the BOCC was truly com­mit­ted to the con­sul­tant’s rec­om­men­da­tion to ac­cel­er­ate growth in town cen­ters, it would start work­ing with the lo­cal com­mu­nity to pro­mote needed de­vel­op­ment in Lusby.

Len Zuza, Solomons

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