Support the bill to Prevent Zoning Amendments immediately before and after elections

There is an important public hearing this Tuesday evening (May 2, at 7:00pm) for County Executive Jan Gardner’s proposed legislation to prohibit zoning amendments six months before and three months after Frederick County elections.

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Let me start with an excerpt from Jan Gardner’s letter to the County Council about this bill:

“It is the appearance of undue influence that we need to prevent. In Frederick County, there were almost twice as many zoning applications considered in the months leading up to the 2014 election than the year before. In fact, there were nearly as many re-zoning applications filed during the final six months of 2014 as there in all of 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined. In addition, in the month between the election and the transition of the administrations, an additional rezoning was approved. While these applications were legal, the timing does leave a perception of possible corruption and undue influence.”

Please note that you can read the entire letter here, along with the rest of the staff report.

Think about that last sentence – the “perception of possible corruption and undue influence.” Now remember back to our experiences during the summer of 2014. Frankly, there wasn’t just a “perception” of corruption. It was very real.

Blaine Young and his cohorts Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter were shoving through every possible zoning amendment, water & sewer amendment, and Phase 2 application they could. Blaine had a lot of promises to keep – and more than $1,000,000 in campaign donations to justify! The developers owned every aspect of the County’s land planning process during that time, with the BoCC and Planning Commission all too willing to play along.

The corruption was very real indeed.

Not only was this corrupt, but it was also very sloppy. County staff was rushed and it showed. They simply ran out of time to get it right. Look no further than the large Blentlinger development, which was one of the last to make it through the process. It was a badly situated and planned development, putting high density residential atop critical watershed for Lake Linganore, further straining the school situation near New Market, and exacerbating the road issues in downtown New Market and on MD Route 75. But then they made it even worse by codifying the deal under a 25 year Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA).

As many of you know, they signed bad, long term contracts left and right under the Young BOCC. But this one was different because they ran out of time. They signed the DRRA – locking in the developer’s rights – but they never executed the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Letter of Understanding (APFO LOU) which might have gotten Frederick County something in return.

And that was it’s undoing!

When RALE’s (Residents Against Landsdale Expansion) appeal made it all the way to the Court of Special Appeals, the DRRA was over-turned (finally!) because the county (meaning the taxpayers) didn’t receive any “enhanced benefits” in return for agreeing to the Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement. The Young BoCC literally sold out Frederick County on this deal, and Court of Special Appeals caught them!

This is what happens when deals are rushed through.

This is what happens when elected officials trade off their land use authority in return for hefty campaign donations.

This bill – Bill No. 17-08 – will go a long way toward preventing this in the future, and I fully support it. You can read the bill and the rest of Jan’s letter in the staff report linked below.

The public hearing with the Frederick County Council Meeting is Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., in the first floor hearing room at Winchester Hall (12 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland).

I hope I see you Tuesday night.


Click here to download the staff report for this agenda item (as a PDF file).

Frederick News Post
Rezoning and re-elections: City revises policy as county considers adopting one
By Nancy Lavin and Mallory Panuska
Friday, April 7, 2017

Envision Frederick County
Court of Special Appeals Overturns Blentlinger DRRA!
by Steve McKay
February 3, 2017

RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion on the web.

RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion on Facebook.

@RALEMonrovia on Twitter.