Open letter to the members of the Frederick County Planning Commission


Members of the Planning Commission:

At yesterday’s meeting on Phase 2 of the Monrovia Town Center, Chairman Robbins’s opening remarks concerning civility were most appropriate. I feel that all those present wished to heed them, but many citizens simply became frustrated in the course of the hearing, because of the way they felt they were being treated.

As you heard from remarks during the “testimony” period, and as I gathered further from speaking with people afterward, many felt from the very start that you regarded them as the “enemy.” They were repeatedly cut short — often abruptly and harshly — when they strayed off-message or became repetitious, while the fawning, toady lawyers were always treated with respect.

I heard many comments to the effect that you members should be “our” representatives, and yet you were instead working for the developers.

I realize that, based on prior decisions which you felt you could not reopen, the MTC is a “done deal.” Staff lawyer Chomel, rightly or wrongly, made that point at the outset, virtually ensuring you could not do otherwise than grant what the developer’s lawyers were asking.

Nevertheless, it would help the bitter pill to go down more easily, were the Planning Commission members to be more respectful to citizens in opposition. It would not hurt to cut them a little slack when they wander off into irrelevant questioning — just a little slack, then remind them gently to return to the issues at hand.

If questions are repetitious, that isn’t the end of the world; often the back-and-forth arguing took more time than a simple repeating of the answer would have done. And an effort to treat citizens with respect, to avoid appearing to cater to the lawyers, and to ensure the same behavior by your commission staff members would do much to help audience members remain civil throughout the proceedings.

One final point: it does not give a good appearance to the fairness of the process when:

1) In the huddle to agree on the proper wording for a contingency regarding exits on Ed McClain Road, only staff members and applicant lawyers were present; and

2) At the end of the hearing, without any…ANY…discussion of the points raised by MTC opponents, the vote was quickly taken, and was unanimous.

One thing that was especially annoying — Commissioner Bruscia did not return after lunch. This seems to me an important irregularity, and when lawyer noted his absence, I heard no explanation or reassurance concerning it.

I appreciate that your job is not an easy one. Nevertheless, to practice the same civility you preach, together with more openness and fairness toward citizen speakers, would not make your job harder; I think it would just make it more pleasant.

Nick Carrera
Urbana District