The Howard County Council in a letter Friday called County Executive Ken Ulman’s first-ever use of veto power an “opportunity” for progress in the area of land preservation, farming and environmental protection.
The Council in December approved legislation to re-tool the county’s land preservation system, but less than two weeks later, Ulman vetoed the legislation, saying it did not do enough to preserve land, according to the Howard County Times.
The Council can override an executive veto with a 4-1 vote at its legislative session today, Monday, Jan. 7. Council member Courtnety Watson voted against.
But a letter (attached) sent to Ulman on Friday suggests the council, instead, plans to work collaboratively on a new map, reading “While we would have preferred that you signed CB 37-2012, your veto has created an opportunity for additional discussion and progress on land preservation, support for farming and environmental protection issues in Howard County.”
The comments echoed those of Ulman when he announced his veto at Elioak Farm and said, “This is not the end, this is the beginning of a productive dialogue which I will personally be very much active in.”
As part of that dialogue, the county must fulfill a state mandate – Senate Bill 236 - the purpose of which is to limit the number of septic systems statewide, effectively limiting the amount of development that is allowed.
To fulfill the state’s requirements, the county must designate land as one of four tiers, the Times reports. Tier I allows for the most development and Tier IV is zoned for agricultural preservation.
"The Howard County Council calls on you to embrace these concepts," the council's letter reads, "and introduce a legislative and policy package that includes these elements as part of the broader discussion on growth tiers.”
The council’s map designates land in the western part of the county, which is currently “priority preservation,” as Tier IV, and land that is already developed residentially and its surrounding parcels as Tier III.
Ulman’s administration has proposed a map that would make more land Tier IV and designate rural, residential properties as Tier III.
When he announced his veto of the county’s legislation, Ulman said he wanted to work with stakeholders, including farmers on “a better solution,” The Times reported.
Council member Greg Fox, who represents the rural part of Howard County, told the Times that he was unsure whether or not the council would override Ulman’s veto.
“I’m willing to listen,” he said. “However, I’m not going to do anything that takes away the rights of the farmers.”