Chmelik out on a limb with his Monrovia Town Center advocacy!

District 2 County Council representative Tony Chmelik gave a long-winded and largely off-topic presentation at last Tuesday’s council hearing concerning the infamous FACT letter.

Despite reading into the record the remand order issued by Circuit Court Judge William Nicklas, Chmelik ultimately disregarded the purpose of the order and, instead, argued the FACT letter had no influence over the prior Board of County Commissioners’ approval of Monrovia Town Center in April 2014. He went on to use his flawed conclusion as a basis to advocate that the council uphold that approval.

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Chmelik missed the mark by a mile.

Nicklas did not ask the council to determine the level of influence the letter may — or may not — have had on the separate vote of each commissioner when they approved MTC. Indeed, Nicklas found “that the FACT letter was presented to the commissioners with the intent to influence the pending vote,” and that it was “highly suggestive” that they relied upon it for their voting.

However, Nicklas also recognized the letter as a red herring of sorts that posed a potential “taint” to the administrative record that supports road adequacy, specifically that of state routes 75 and 80. Road adequacy is by far the weakest part of the record supporting the project, which is why Smith and Commissioner Young went to the great effort of crafting the letter and entering it into the record as evidence of adequacy, a circumstance that Nicklas labeled as “extreme.” It’s that circumstance which Nicklas has asked the council to investigate in order to see what other “taint” may exist, and which Chmelik apparently considers to be a wild-goose chase.

Nicklas made it clear in his opinion (which Chmelik also read into the record) that “testimony of Commissioner Smith is appropriate,” and the remand order itself specifically compelled the council to include additional testimony in its proceedings. Smith never testified, nor did he submit an affidavit to the council like Young did, two minor details that Chmelik said he “didn’t object to at all.” That’s a stunning admission to make under the circumstances, one which Nicklas won’t appreciate should the council decide on June 30 that the letter didn’t matter and send the case back to him without conducting any discovery from Smith.

Through his research, Chmelik said he found that all parties tasked with proving road adequacy in the record have more than done so. I’m not sure how he can reach that conclusion since he did not attend one single hearing out of the 13 that were held. He also supports the false premise contained in the FACT letter that the project will seed improvements to Md. 75 by virtue of providing private money. Maybe he is not aware of this, but both MDOT and SHA issued public statements criticizing the county for failing to get more money from developers to improve the road. They have also declared MTC to be outside of a priority funding area, and thus ineligible for state road improvement funds.

As a resident of District 2, I remember well the joint campaign signs that Chmelik and Young shared. I also know he directly accepted campaign money from the MTC developer. So, I simply cannot take him at his word when he says that MTC will benefit the area by enhancing the transportation system.

Chmelik is out on a limb as the lone cheerleader for MTC. Council members Shreve and Delauter are clearly liabilities to the developer’s chances of prevailing on this issue, so they have gone virtually silent. Shreve lobbed a few patsy defenses, and Delauter actually said nothing. Thankfully, council members Keegan-Ayer, Fitzwater and Donald were able to reason through the true intent of the remand order and concluded the council must dig deeper. That puts the deciding vote squarely on Bud Otis’ shoulders, a situation that he is not at all pleased about.

I wish him well as he contemplates his vote.

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This also appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Frederick News Post.