have the right to insure that there is proper public safety protection
when you approve new development," said Roger Powell, speaking for the
state organization and the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.
also pointed out to the Queen Anne's County Planning Commission that before
emergency services on Kent Island become "an acute problem" there may be
a need to "restrain development."
comments at the regular May meeting of the planning commission came at
a time when the KIVFD has changed its fund-raising strategy and the county
is re-examining funding and planning for emergency services.
KIVFD, using a formula that has not been made public, started soliciting
donations from developers this spring as their projects were approved by
the planning commission. The planners have supported this strategy by urging
applicants to voluntarily participate.
not all developers have participated to the degree asked by the fire department,
according to the KIVFD's Jody Schulz. He has led this new fund-raising
strategy, reporting its progress to the commission since February.
issue came to a head when the first building of a 380,000-square-foot expansion
strategy by KRM Development of Chestertown was approved during March and
April meetings. While KRM has made a donation, Schulz said there has been
no response on increasing the amount.
the May meeting, in what could be regarded as a setback in the KIVFD strategy,
planning commission legal counsel Chris Drummond issued an opinion stating
that site plan denial cannot be "because an appropriate donation to the
affected volunteer fire company has not been made."
opinion also stated that the planning commission cannot make a "satisfactory
donation" a condition of approval. The May 3 opinion spurred the appearance
of Powell at the May 10 regular meeting, when he responded to planning
commission questions about funding for emergency services.
to County Administrator Mark Belton and the planning department's development
review chief, J. Steven Cohoon, Queen Anne's County is reviewing emergency
services, both as part of the Comprehensive Plan Update and the recently
created Interim Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (IAFPO).
a separate interview, Belton said the county budget that becomes effective
July 1 will create the position of deputy state fire marshal, who will
have the regulatory power to sign off on all new development applications.
said it will take 30 to 90 days after July 1 to hire such a person. This
position will take this sign-off authority from the Department of Public
Works, which has been submitting development plans to local fire departments
for their review.
new position also would replace the volunteer efforts of deputy state fire
marshal Paul Schlotterbeck, also a KIVFD member. The fire department has
been part of the development review process for several months. Other volunteer
fire departments in the region, although active in fund-raising, have not
chosen the KIVFD strategy.
said that what the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department is doing is "OK,"
but because of the May 4 legal opinion, the planning commission is not
bound by its activities.
said the county recently hired a consultant to initiate a countywide emergency
management study, to support the goals of the Comprehensive Plan Update
as well as the IAFPO. Future emergency services needs based on growth demographics
and possible increases in impact fees will be studied, he said.
is a key issue for the Kent Island fire department, whose leadership maintains
that the one-time impact fees are not adequate to insure the growth of
emergency services as more development comes to Kent Island. Currently
county funds provide from $180,000 to 190,000 of the department's annual
even with current fund-raising levels and money from various state programs,
the KIVFD leadership maintains that there is still a significant shortfall
each year. This shortfall is also apparent on a long-term basis as the
department makes plans to build a new fire station in addition to the maintenance
of current vehicles and the purchase of new equipment.
terms of public revenues, Powell pointed out that these funds are limited,
and sought after on a competitive basis. "This year there are no more funds
in the '508 program," he said of one source of state money for local fire
and Drummond both noted that many jurisdictions in Maryland have created
a "fire tax," so that emergency services can be properly funded. During
a period of a tax cap in the 1980s and 1990s, Talbot County adopted such
a tax, but it has since been rescinded.
commission members and the planning staff also recognized that emergency
medical services (ambulance transportation and staffing) are moving toward
a fee-for-service standard. This trend has been supported by primary care
facilities and the medical insurance industry.
said some jurisdictions throughout North America have adopted a direct
fee for services, where the recipient receives a bill. "But this is risky,
because those who pay in this way also figure that they can sue (if they
get inadequate service)," he said.
supported the KIVFD's current drive by saying that the planning commission,
as part of its public approval process, can support agreements between
local governments and private-sector entities, such as small businesses,
corporations and developers.
need to understand that they need to contribute," Powell emphasized. He
said that the KIVFD funding problems are because "there seems to be a space
between those who get services and those who provide services."
commission member Loring Hawes said that the same principle applies to
the public approval process. "There is also a difference of what you want
and what we can do," he said.
by Drummond if the Kent Island fire department is asking for a moratorium
on new development, Powell said, "No, but you should not issue permits
Chairman James Foor said that part of the planning commission's difficulty
is that the KIVFD has not "demonstrated to us that one project will impair
the response from their fire department."
he, other commission members and the staff agreed that volunteer fire departments
need more money, Foor said, "we don't want to get to the point where you
can't do your job - but we don't need to reinvent the wheel, either."
said increased funding to respond to future demographics must also go beyond
equipment and response time. "We need to look at recruitment and retention
of current staff," he said. He also said the U.S. 50/301 Corridor presents
unique problems for emergency services in the region that need to be resolved.
and Powell also said it takes a long time to repair as well as buy new
equipment, since all emergency service vehicles are custom manufactured.
was also a consensus in the room that a permanent paid staff will be necessary
in the Kent Island fire department's future.
Karen Oertel, whose family owns a seafood packing business and well-known
Kent Narrows restaurant, said she has supported the donation-with-approval
strategy based on the notion that "any donation is acceptable."
for the current KRM permit, Drummond said its approval stands, but he takes
a broader view. "Whatever the outcome of the KRM/KIVFD dispute, the planning
commission should continue urging landowners to appreciate and support
the firefighting and emergency services provided by volunteer fire companies."
also said if the planning commission were to deny an application based
on "public welfare grounds," it would need evidence "premised on some reliable
statistical formula relied upon by emergency service professionals.
the best of my knowledge, the planning commission has not received evidence
meeting those standards to date."
opinion is available at the offices of the county administrator and the
planning department in Centreville.