Aldermen to vote on proposal to change citizen’s right to appeal in Frederick

For more than a decade I’ve been privileged to serve city residents and work “side-by-side” with staff to facilitate good planning and zoning within the City of Frederick. Often we agree – or quickly find consensus – but in this case I strongly oppose the staffs’ recommendation to make a change to the City’s Land Management Code that would effect how appeals of planning commission decisions are handled in the City.

If approved, the proposal would eliminate local review and oversight (by the Zoning Board of Appeals) of some decisions made by the city’s Planning Commission.

This proposal should be of concern to anyone who believes that local autonomy, a system of check-and-balances, and fair and open access are essential elements of good government.

Currently, City law allows residents to take their concerns to the local appeals board for an administrative review and decision. If the appeals boards votes to stand by the decision, residents can take the case to the Maryland Circuit Court.

Under this new proposal, the right to appeal Planning Commission decisions locally would be eliminated, leaving those aggrieved by a decision of the Planning Commission with only the choice to appeal directly to the Maryland Circuit Court (while appeals of decisions of the City’s Zoning Administrator would still be heard locally.)

On Thursday (August 7, 2014) 7:00 PM, the agenda for regular meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen includes another public hearing on the matter, at which the alderman could vote to make the change.

Below please find two links to columns I wrote in recent months detailing my concerns and advocating that strong protections remain in place for all city residents, and a link to the Executive Summary prepared by staff.

ENVISION column: “Proposal threatens Frederick citizen’s right to appeal Planning Commission decisions to local board” (Jim Racheff: March 27, 2014)


ENVISION column: “Proposal to change citizen’s right to appeal in Frederick not moving forward…for now” (Jim Racheff: July 5, 2014)


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: An Ordinance to Amend Sections 301, 309, 312, and 315 of the Land Management Code (LMC), Regarding Appeals of Planning Commission Decisions and Certain Administrative Decisions


In short, I believe the proposed changes would effectively eliminate the ability of the average citizen to appeal any planning decision made by the city.

Click the names below if you would like to contact the mayor and members of the Board of Alderman about this issue before the meeting…

Randy McClement, Mayor

Kelly Russell, President Pro-Tem

Michael O’Connor, Alderman

Philip Dacey, Alderman

Joshua Bokee, Alderman

Donna Kuzemchak, Alderman