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The following letter was submitted to the Bay Times today, along with a copy to the Kent Island Defense League for distribution.  The article referred to follows below:
 
 
July 16, 2001
Letter to the Editor

Bay Times

Lori Rossbach’s article, “As development increases so does demand for 911 service”, was extremely important to the health and safety of all Kent Island residents.However the photo caption “Kent Island will grow by about 600 new residential units in the next 5 years” was seriously misleading to those who only skimmed the article.

If you read the article and entire statement made by Steve Cohoon, Queen Anne County’s Development Review Chief, the caption should have more truthfully stated, “Including pending development, Kent Island could grow by 950 new residential units and 600,000 square feet of commercial by 2005”.This is alarming enough, but it is only the tip of the iceberg – because he continues to say that “most development will take place between 2005 and 2010”.

In fact, the county’s recent traffic study for the Route 8 corridor is based on 3,832 new residential units and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space planned for Kent Island alone by 2010.I’m not at all comforted by the county’s claim that this is “worst case scenario”.

At a recent Planning Commission public hearing, I spoke about my concern for the safety of those of us who live on Kent Island during the total traffic gridlock situations we face with beach traffic and whenever there is an incident on Route 50 or the Bay Bridge.Member Karen Oertel responded that although they were looking into a safety evacuation plan, the bridge had been here since 1950 and those who live on Kent Island “made their choices”.I guess we can only hope that it will not be a life or death choice!

Although I was not able to think quickly enough to respond at the time, I would like to know why our elected and appointed officials have chosen to disregard earlier Comprehensive Plans regarding growth on Kent Island.While the 1993 Plan clearly states that the County should act to take development pressure off of Kent Island, instead we find just the opposite has happened - and the draft comprehensive plan “update” currently being reviewed actually encourages even more building on Kent Island!Please don’t let the County’s plan for “worst case scenario”become our reality.

Terry Babb
Stevensville

_____________________________________________

Here is the subject article (Bay Times 7/11/01) as it appeared in the Star Democrat on 7/13/01:
As development increases, so does demand for 911 service


By: LORI ROSSBACH, Staff Writer July 13, 2001


STEVENSVILLE - As development on Kent Island increases, members of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department (KIVFD) are working with county officials to ensure emergency fire and ambulance services will be in place to meet growing demands. 
"The impact of development on the fire department is substantial," said Jody Schulz, vice president of KIVFD. "The KIVFD, is an all volunteer fire department. There are no paid employees."

"We have experienced a significant increase in calls," said Schulz. "Calls average about five per day. We are not only responsible to cover land mass, but a portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

Schulz said in addition to protecting homes, businesses, marinas, and waterways, new development in the county brings an increased risk of accidents occurring on U.S. Route 50 and side streets.

"We do miss calls due to lack of staffing," Schulz said. "After a certain amount of time has passed, the next due station is alerted to the call."

"We're missing EMS calls, we have antiquated apparatus, we need more staffing, our firehouse is inadequate, our aerial tower ladder truck failed inspection," said Les Adams, president of KIVFD.

Members of the KIVFD said to ensure fire and ambulance protection, additional revenues are necessary. While other counties have created a fire tax to pay for the costs of fire and ambulance services, no such tax exists in Queen Anne's County. Much of the revenues collected by volunteer fire departments is through donations.

"It is beneficial to keep fire departments volunteer, for tax purposes," said Roger Powell, attorney for the Maryland State Firemen's Association. "The creation of a fire tax is an option I'm not particularly in favor of. We pay enough taxes," said Schulz. 

To avoid the collection of revenues via a fire tax, members of the KIVFD requested the Queen Anne's County Planning Commission to collect fees from developers as a part of the planning approval process, however were met with legal obstacles. 

"The planning commission tells developers they can't come in because of this or that, but they never say you can't come in because of inadequate fire protection," said Tracy Schulz, KIVFD Fire Chief. 

"The planning commission has asked their attorney for a legal position on approving or denying projects based on volunteer fire department concerns over an applicant," said J. Steven Kaii-Ziegler, planning director for the Queen Anne's County Department of Planning and Zoning. "The attorney said they can not deny or hold up projects until the developer is willing to give a certain amount of money to fire departments." 

"After carefully reviewing Title 18 of the Queen Anne's County Code, I am not able to conclude that subdivision or site plan approval can be denied because an appropriate donation to the affected volunteer fire company has not been made. Similarly, I do not find that the planning commission can condition subdivision or a site plan approval upon the applicant making a satisfactory donation," wrote Christopher F. Drummond, in his capacity as counsel for the county planning commission in a letter dated May 3. 

"A developer is responsible for infrastructure improvements and a variety of offsite improvements, however the volunteer fire department is a different entity," said Kaii-Ziegler. 

"Now is the time to be planning for addressing the needs of the fire department," said J. Steven Cohoon, development review chief with county planning and zoning. "To do that, the county is doing several things including a review of the adequate public facilities ordinance, an impact fee study and an emergency services study. In addition, the planning department has requested the creation of a position for reviewing development plans for compliance with state fire laws."

"Obviously, both the county and the volunteer fire companies acknowledge that the current impact fee system with regard to emergency services is flawed," said Kaii-Ziegler. "I believe we are collaboratively working together to resolve existing problems and are producing a much superior long term product." 

"It's envisioned that impact fees relative to fire stations and apparatus would be both collected and distributed by the existing fire districts," said Kaii-Ziegler. The planning process will be "significantly improved in relation to requiring new growth to pay for at least its fair share."

"A contractual fire code review person, in the form of fire protection engineer, has been established with the adoption of the 2002 operating budget," said Kaii-Ziegler. "It is my opinion that once the county is able to hire a competent, trained fire codes plan reviewer (perhaps in the form of a fire protection engineer) the existence of this person within the process would satisfy many of the concerns expressed by the volunteer fire companies."

"However, these tools are not designed to offset or resolve what apparently is a significant existing deficiency," said Kaii-Ziegler. (According to Schulz, shortfalls in volunteer donations create hardships on the fire station. Only about 30 percent of residents in the KIVFD zone currently donate.) When questioned about solutions to address existing deficiencies within the fire department, Kaii-Ziegler said the county could help by "altering the makeup to increase percentages of existing property taxes (by either cutting into other services or increasing taxes) that could go to VFD", or could "consider applying a fire tax."

Cohoon said by the year 2005, growth on Kent Island will include about 600 new residential units, 344,000 square feet of commercial/retail development, 50,000 square feet of church space, one new elementary school and 80 rental apartments for seniors.

Cohoon said additional development by the year 2005 is pending, including about 350 residential units, 255,600 square feet of commercial/retail development and construction of a new middle school. 

Cohoon said most development will be take place between 2005 and 2010.

"Right now we are in the midst of fundraising," said Jody Schultz. "We ask each household for a $45.00 donation for EMS (ambulance) and for a $40 donation for the fire department; that's about 23 cents per day to assure these services are in place. If everyone would donate it would reduce the effort on the part of the volunteers to spend so much time fundraising."

Schulz said KIVFD provides services from the tip of Love Point to the Sunny Isles of Kent, just past Batt's Neck, and from the mid-point of the William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge to the mid-point of the Kent Narrows Bridge and all surrounding waters. They provide back-up to surrounding fire departments, including Anne Arundel County.

"The next time you see a fire truck or an ambulance go by, instead of wondering where they're going, think about the volunteers in it, the sacrifices they've made; think about the people who left behind their family, job or a hot meal to go out and assist a stranger in need," said Jody Schulz. 

Donations can be made to the KIVFD at P.O. Box 27, Stevensville, Md. 21666. 

©The Star Democrat 2001

 

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