Searching for Elkton’s Elusive Blight Reduction Policy for 4-Months, While Town Asks For Dismissal of Injunction

After a controversial decision on Dec. 16 cited Elkton’s new blight control policy as a reason for approving the waiver of $150,000 in major facilities fees, Someone Noticed decided the policy was worthy of a news story.  Unfortunately, the policy, as of this week, is still being developed and hasn’t moved beyond some sketchy ideas, if that much! 

Realizing that this was a precedent setting policy the town used to justify the waiver, Someone Noticed immediately started working on the story, asking to see a copy of the document the next December day.  Nothing was available so we waited until February, when we filed a Freedom of Information Act.  Each time the town informed us that the policy is still being developed so we assured municipal officials that we were okay with a draft, an outline, or whatever they used to frame the waiver decision.  To that we were advised that there was simply nothing to review.  This beautiful spring week in April seemed like a good time to follow-up since some four months have passed by, but the framework or any level of details has not been produced.

In connection with the controversial fee waiver, two Elkton taxpayers asked the Circuit Court to issue an injunction stopping the Mayor and Commissioners from waving the major facilities fees for the developer.  A hearing is scheduled Friday since attorneys for the town have filed a motion for dismissal.  We’ll try to cover this so readers have information on where the injunction stands.

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8 responses to “Searching for Elkton’s Elusive Blight Reduction Policy for 4-Months, While Town Asks For Dismissal of Injunction

  1. Hmmmm. . . . . sounds strangely like the situation at the county level where the meeting minutes for hiring the lobbyist were never released. What’s the big secret?

  2. Ted:

    For sure. When the town took this most unusual action of waving fees for a property owned by one corporation and allowing that bank to hand the fee waiver over to another corporation, it was unusual. For justification they cited Elkton’s new blight reduction policy, but it was obvious too that whatever that policy was hadn’t been sketched out. Wouldn’t you think that after four months, a law suit, and far more noise than the commissioners anticipated, they’d at least get that policy out to the public.

    It was of the points of contention in court yesterday, that there really isn’t a policy.

    Thanks for the geat service you’re doing in making information available at the county level too, that citizens wouldn’t be aware of if someone wasn’t watching. I’m sure not going to read it in the newspaper.

  3. hey how can they say they gave that money up because that blight policy said they should. Now which is it the policy said so or they don’t have one

  4. The town is wasting our tax money by continuing this folly. They should just reimburse Cecil Bank and if the bank wants to give $150K to Ingerman Group, then they can write them a cheque. The town has no business being a middleman in transferring funds between separate legal entitties.

  5. Ekton Brownbagger:

    They didn’t give them any money. They just wiaved fees that are normally assessed for utility hook ups. They help fund the expansion of the utility system.

    On the question about whether the policy said they could or not, they don’t have a policy that can provide to the public. It seems to be non-existent.

  6. Bob:

    This entire process is the strangest thing. If one ever wanted a case study for how not to go about weighing the public merits of a request, this one would do it.

    I’ve watched the political leadership in every public meeting go through this process. What’s funny is that fee waivers sometime have a value in creating development, but you can’t weight that in a short meeting of the politicians, with them making the decision. I tried to listen to the justifications but data was hard to catch as they talked about the matter.

    They need to hand these requests over to the professional staff and ask them to make recommendations based on the public merit. It’ll be interesting watching their decision making process get a public airing in court. If I were the town political leadership, I wouldn’t want all that dragged up, especiially at election time.

  7. Mike:

    I agree that professional staff should prepare reports for any public projects. It should include a formal Benefit-Cost analysis. This is a basic tool for municipal administrators. If a BCA demonstrated a net benefit to the town in granting Ingerman Group a fee waiver to secure the project, then that would be a different matter entirely. However, this project is being done with or without a fee waiver. Further, the issue at hand is transferring a fee waiver from Cecil Bank to Ingerman Group (a corporation based in Cherry Hill, NJ).

    It is interesting to recall that the town held up attempts to develop the Collins St. property for years until that owner eventually delcared bankruptcy. Now the town has changed course and is ignoring the requirements that it upheld before. Why the drastic change of heart?

  8. For sure. Interesting points.

    As they discussed it at the workshop, a staff professional came in toward the end of the meeting and the political leadership was stuck on the discussion, because two of the commissioners were asking challenging questions (Storke & Givens). So with them stuck and going nowhere, the professional staffer said you want to evaluate it from the point of what public good it provides. Added they should create a spreadsheet so they could see the numbers. With them still stick, the official finally said frame it as a blight reduction policy. Commissioner Jablonski liked that idea a lot and expressed it a few times, saying “That’s a wonderful idea. Thanks.” That freed them up and a majority approved of the transfer. But still when you ask to see the policy they used to justify this, they can’t produce it and some 4 months have passed by!

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