Monrovia Town Center update following the County Council meeting

Last Wednesday, the County Council met to decide how they will proceed on the Circuit Court’s remand of the Monrovia Town Center Case. About thirty people from the community attended the meeting, with eighteen people speaking up in favor of a broad review of the case. Only one person spoke against the idea of reopening the case – the developer’s attorney.

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Following public comment, Council Member Jessica Fitzwater asked the county council’s attorney what their options are and Mr. Chomel walked through a number of possibilities, all of which begin with holding public hearing(s) and taking new testimony, as directed by Judge Nicklas:

    1) The Council could determine that the FACT letter didn’t influence the BoCC’s decision to approve MTC. Mr. Chomel said the Council could vote on the matter but didn’t address how they would resolve the open zoning case.

    2) The Council could determine that the FACT letter did influence the decision, and then undertake one of several options to re-evaluate the approval in the absence of the letter:

      • They could review the case file and determine for themselves whether there was sufficient evidence to approve MTC

      • They could take limited testimony to clarify any issues that come up from their review of the case, or

      • They could completely re-hear the case, including possibly beginning with the Planning Commission.

Following this discussion the Council moved to proceed with holding a public hearing on the FACT letter. Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer made sure to note that holding this public hearing would not limit their ability to hold additional hearings on the MTC case.

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So that’s the next step.

The Council will hold hearing(s) to determine whether the FACT letter did or didn’t influence the BoCC’s decision. I believe there are significant challenges before the council based on the path they are on.

Certainly, we still need to get to the bottom of the FACT letter. However, the Council – which may not have subpoena power – could find itself hamstrung in its ability to establish the truth. We need to determine whether the developer, his legal team, and/or other Commissioners were involved or aware of the letter. What’s not clear is how best, and under who’s authority, to conduct this investigation.

If the hearings will be about determining whether the FACT letter “mattered,” then I would say they face an impossible task. This will be a subjective judgement that is impossible to prove one way or another. The former Commissioners will have no reason to say anything other than “no, it had no influence on my decision” and the council may find itself at a loss to either confirm or refute those statements. Recall that Judge Nicklas already concluded that the letter was presented in a way to influence the BoCC’s decision and that Roy Stanley’s attorney Rand Weinberg relied upon it “strenuously.”

Lastly, by focusing on the hopeless task of trying to divine what the commissioners were thinking last year, the council would be ignoring their primary responsibility of resolving the open MTC case. The council is now the responsible authority for the zoning change. Both the council and county executive share responsibility for making determinations on the DRRA and APFO LOU. A thorough and open public review will be required to make these determinations.

I’m including some links below to coverage of the meeting, as well as a few of interesting items from the FNP on Sunday.


FCG Video Coverage of the Council Meeting on April 29th
The MTC discussion begins at about the 2:39:00 mark, but you can click directly on the relevant agenda item, entitled: “Discussion of Further Action of Monrovia Town Center Remand”

WHAG Coverage of the Meeting
VIDEO: Debate Over Monrovia Town Center Continues with Remand From Circuit Court Judge
April 29, 2015

Frederick News Post coverage of the meeting
Council to reopen portion of Monrovia Town Center case
Thursday, April 30, 2015
By Jen Fifield and Bethany Rodgers

Frederick News Post Editorial
Footloose approach to budget by Shreve, Delauter & Chmelik
(good editorial discussing the recent budget antics by three of the council members)

Frederick News Post Letter to the Editor
Disgraceful Billy Shreve
Sunday, May 3, 2015
by Carl Thomas
(hard hitting letter to the editor chastising Billy Shreve and His approach to his new council position)

Frederick News Post
Don’t skimp on education funding
Sunday, May 3, 2015
by Valerie Dale
(a strong appeal to maintain Frederick County’s education spending)

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