- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
On Dec. 11, the town of La Plata will hold a public hearing to discuss the second amendment to the Heritage Green annexation that occurred in 1990.
The agreement involved annexing into the town approximately 1,100 acres for the purpose of building 3,170 homes. At the time, the developer promised to build a road and 18-hole golf course. The golf course, estimated to cost millions of dollars, was to be built in its entirety prior to the town issuing the first building permit. Even with these provisions, the developer barely won a narrow decision in a record-setting referendum vote.
The first amendment to the agreement took place in 1997, with the town council voting 3-2 in favor of temporarily setting aside the building of a road and golf course so that Washington Square could be built. Our current mayor, as a council member, voted for the amendment. He would later in 2009, as mayor, request $14 million of our federal tax stimulus funds to help pay for the road that was promised to be built with developer funds.
Now, a second amendment will be heard that frees the developer of having to pay millions, in advance, to deliver a golf course for other amenities phased in over time. Exactly what amenities, their value and time line for being built, we do not know. And we have little advance financial commitment, certainly none approaching the multimillions that the golf course provided, that would assure the substituted amenities will ever be built.
Additionally, these new amenities will be phased in probably long after this town council will have left the scene.
Obviously, town officials were recently shamed into finally discussing this annexation amendment in the December/January issue of Town Notes. The extent of coverage is woefully lacking. It arrived Dec. 1, 10 short days before the hearing, even though the town has been in negotiations for more than a year.
Do you know any of the particulars? No, and neither do I. Some concerns associated with this annexation you may have forgotten or were never made aware of. They are too numerous to list.
When I requested that the town address such major issues in a citizen survey, the mayor responded that this would cause a change of government not covered in our state charter. How preposterous. He even proffered that once the results of a survey were made public, it would have the effect of causing council members to vote accordingly.
Isnít that their job?
Council members, I believe, donít want us to be apprised of the facts on major issues. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they donít want to know our feelings, either. This way, they can vote as they wish and not be faulted. The town recently spent $10,000 of our taxes to survey residents on everything but major issues. Why?
And did this cause our form of government to change as the mayor suggests? The mayor states that the survey does not concentrate on one or two hot-button issues. It, in fact, avoids these major issues like a plague. Why?
We have been shafted by a complicit, enabling town council that refuses to hold developersí feet to the fire while attempting to sell us as shiny a bill of goods now as was hustled to us in 1990, causing the initial annexation, and by a clock purposely timed to run out before the issue can be properly reviewed and thoroughly debated, and residents surveyed.
Our town has recent history with these types of shenanigans. Need I say more than the Walmart Supercenter fiasco? It seems to me that because the Heritage Green annexation was ratified by the people in a 1990 referendum, any amendment that substantially changes its provisions also should be approved by residents in a special election after a thorough vetting.
Michael J. Runfola, La Plata