Councilman Chmelik on wrong side of Monrovia development debate

chmelikheadshotI want to thank District 2 County Council representative Tony Chmelik for graciously hosting two recent town hall meetings with his constituents. Both meetings were well attended and, as expected, the primary concern among residents was the Monrovia Town Center development.

While his time was welcomed, his intractable support of the development was not. He continues to be unwilling or unable to seriously consider the input from the overwhelming majority of District 2 residents who oppose MTC. Would you be shocked to know that he admitted to speaking with only two people who support the development? I wasn’t.

Chmelik appears blissfully unaware of the pending financial burden MTC will bestow on the taxpayers of Frederick County. I don’t think he wants to know, and he probably figured he’d never need to. After all, who could have ever guessed the issue would end up for the council to decide?

RALEverticalaerialroute75For instance, he was not aware of the cost figures published in the 2015 County Annual Transportation Priorities Review or the Maryland Department of Transportation Highway Needs Inventory, which lay out the funds to improve Md. 75 that will be required in order to alleviate future gridlock and safety concerns arising from the glut of planned growth in the corridor.

When you add them together and then subtract out the total developer and county contributions pledged so far to the project, the price tag is an exorbitant $260 million for a two-lane improved road. The price swells to $490 million for a four-lane road if we use the half-billion dollar cost estimate stated on record by Ron Burns, the lead county traffic engineer.

As bad as that sounds, these numbers represent the as yet unfunded portion of the money needed to improve the road, which would leave either the state or the county taxpayers stuck with the tab. To make matters even worse, the state has insisted that they won’t fund the necessary improvements to 75 because it’s not in a priority funding area. Right now, the numbers clearly don’t work, yet Chmelik seems intent to play chicken with the state, and his grand solution is to simply “pound away” at them until they cough up the dough. Blaine Young tried and failed with that wishful thinking and wound up getting drubbed at the polls in District 2.

For all his conservative posturing on never raising taxes, Chmelik’s penny wise, pound foolish position will do exactly that if the major developments along Md. 75 are built without a firm financial commitment from the state. That’s an unacceptable gamble for this fiscal conservative.

Chmelik has been a consistent supporter of MTC, which isn’t surprising since he’s a home builder by trade and an obvious proxy vote for the MTC developer (remember those campaign donations?). If I were in his position, I’d make a genuine effort to catch up with my knowledgeable constituents on the facts and figures of a critical issue in my district before I vote on it.

If he does, I have faith that he can summon the courage to begin advocating for us and make sound decisions based on facts instead of donations. We’ll be watching intently on Sept. 1 when the council makes a crucial vote in the MTC saga.

This was also published as a letter to the editor in the Frederick News Post.

Aslo read:

“District 2 Council member is helping the Monrovia Town Center developers”
June 22, 2015
by Steven McKay

RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion on the web.

RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion on Facebook.

@RALEMonrovia on Twitter.