Epic meeting of February 6th: round 2 (a doozy)

The public hearing on the MDX amendment to “the Zoning Ordinance to specify additional permitted uses in the Mixed Use Development District” is an instance when zzzzzzzzoning is unfortunately not boring.  To briefly touch on this, the perception is that this amendment is hand crafted to target the Jefferson Tech Park area and that to adopt it would mean these people end up with distribution centers such as what we see out on Buckeystown Pike in their neighborhood, to the detriment of their property values. Since Steve McKay, who has frequently spoken on zoning issues in the Monrovia area, and Stand Up Frederick have already posted thoughts on this, please see those links for information while we focus on how much we were confused by what happened at the lectern last night. (P.S. you probably know that Steve McKay will be running against Tony Chmelik in the District 2 Republican Primary, and after Chmelik’s abominable behavior this evening we could not be more pleased that he is doing so.) If Mr. McKay and Lisa Jarosinski, who is running in the Democratic primary, are the candidates in the D2 general election, that will be one lucky D indeed. Those are two fine candidates.

First of all, it was a great joy to hear from The Public at this meeting. The Public is a lot more interesting than Our Regular Cast of Characters. Ray Barnes spoke on behalf of County Executive Gardner and gave three concerns. He was questioned at length by Billy, who kept trying to rile Mr. Barnes up with his circular dislogic. Mr. Barnes kept his cool throughout this display, and was ultimately dismissed by Bud who claimed he never heard these concerns before tonight and he wants to know hear from the public. The Lawyer for the Jefferson Tech Park–why did he get his three minutes, plus many, many more minutes of chit chat? Is this how it is supposed to work? We don’t get that. That does not seem reasonable to us. This guy tries to bog us down with legalese, claiming it’s in the interest of public safety that the council approve this bill. He also throws out the term “belts and suspenders legislation,” to which we can only think, “When has that fashion combo ever been a good idea?”

243aui

Steve McKay spoke knowledgeably, per usual, as did Kai Hagen.

Then Kai also got the many, many more minutes of chitchat “privilege.” We chuckle a bit that Kai is never succinct (and of course, we recognize that this is because he is thoughtful and diplomatic, so he makes an effort to be thorough and careful) but this really wasn’t about him at all. Because it was about Tony Chmelik being rabid, ranting, obnoxious, asking him questions in a rude and angry tone and then talking over him every time he tried to answer. We don’t typically give Tony Chmelik too much grief, because as compared to the Shrelauter bookends, he tends to stand out in the more normal grownup conduct spectrum. Well, not last night! And then we have no one stopping it. M.C. Keegan-Ayer tried to introduce a point of order in all this, and was completely ignored. we were under the impression that someone wields a gavel at these things and is supposed to maintain order? Who is that? It took far too long for any effort to be made to curtail this behavior. Kai may be an At-Large candidate for the Council, but currently he is The Public. The Public doesn’t deserve to be treated with such rudeness.

Tony sniped that Kai hasn’t taken responsibility for this issue. Well. We have thoughts. That thought is that as an elected representative in this county it is currently Tony Chmelik’s responsibility to shirk. If he wants to make this a special responsibility of Kai Hagen’s, we can all follow his dreams. We can do so by electing Kai Hagen to our County Council. So there’s a thing to think up on. It appears to be the one simple trick to respecting everyone involved here.

Here are some handy dandy campaign resources; we are in no way affiliated with any of the candidates and this message was approved by no one:

Lisa Jarosinski

Steve McKay

Kai Hagen

Tony Chmelik (hahaha–if you’re looking for his page, you’ll have to find your way there unaided by us!)

 

Have a concern about development in your area? Better lawyer up!

How dare you question the developer?!
How cute! County citizens thought they had a voice!

For years we  labored under the delusion that the 1st amendment mattered. Along comes Roy Stanley’s lawsuit and shatters that illusion. It’s really silly to admit that we whole-heartedly believed that American citizens were allowed to assemble and petition the government. In fact, our urbanite education kinda instructed us that it was our duty to do so. Some nonsense about it strengthening our democracy and making sure the most powerful voices didn’t always win out.  It makes us blush because we now realize that we have been stuck in our post adolescent idealistic phase for a couple of decades.

Perhaps we should thank Mr. Stanley for waking us up and making us face the  harsh realities of the world.  We get that Mr. Stanley wants to move on with his development. And while we don’t agree with his premises about C. Paul Smith’s FACT letter, nor do we think he will win, we get why he would sue the county government. What we cannot imbibe, and what has shattered our faith in American democracy, is that fact that he decided to add members of RALE to his lawsuit.

For those of you not familiar with RALE (Residents Against Landsdown Expansion), please visit their website. In short, they are a group of concerned citizens in Monrovia. They banded together because they were concerned about the amount of development and lack of improvements that were being proposed in their neighborhood. They have faithfully attended every meeting, spoke their minds  (especially Steve McKay) and called foul when they believed certain political officials were not only listening to developers, but were in cahoots with them.

We here at the Yokel were lucky enough to get a copy of said lawsuit.  Count III is the only part that we see that includes RALE, though we are still not exactly sure why. See for yourself:

COUNT III DECLARATORY JUDGMENT (all Defendants)

149. Plaintiff adopts by reference the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 through 148 of this Complaint with the same effect as if herein fully set forth. 150. This is an action for declaratory judgment pursuant to § 3-409 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, for the purpose of terminating uncertainty or controversy between parties with antagonistic claims that will likely give rise to imminent or inevitable litigation. 151. There exists an actual controversy of a justiciable issue between the parties involving the rights and liabilities of the parties. The County Council is determined to force the Plaintiffs to present their rezoning application anew to the Planning Commission and then to the County Council, and the Plaintiffs maintain that the County Council has violated the Court’s March 10, 2015 Order, violated Maryland’s impermissible change of mind rule, and denied the due process to the Plaintiffs. 152. The actual controversy between the parties is within the jurisdiction of the Court. 37 153. The antagonistic claims between the parties indicate imminent and inevitable litigation. 154. A declaratory judgment by this Court will terminate the actual controversy between the parties. WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs, 75-80 Properties, L.L.C. and Payne Investments, LLC, respectfully request that the Court enter an Order: (a) Declaring that the purpose of the Court’s Order of March 10, 2015 was to direct the County Council of Frederick County to conduct further proceedings, including testimony, to resolve the issues raised in the Court’s March 10, 2015 Order, i.e., to determine what significance, if any, the FACT Letter played in the former BOCC’s approval of the Plaintiffs’ PUD rezoning application for the Monrovia Town Center; (b) Declaring that the statements of Councilmen Shreve and Delauter at the June 9, 2015 public meeting of the County Council that the FACT Letter did not have any impact on their decisions to vote to approve the Plaintiffs’ PUD rezoning application for the Monrovia Town Center, together with former Commissioner Young’s Affidavit submitted to the administrative record to the effect that the FACT Letter was not a determinative factor in Commissioner Young’s decision to vote to approve the Plaintiffs’ PUD rezoning application for the Monrovia Town Center, effectively resolves the question as to the significance of the FACT Letter; (c) Declaring that the testimony and Affidavit of the decision-makers, Councilmen Shreve and Delauter and former Commissioner Young, establishes that the FACT Letter was not significant in that the FACT Letter did not have any effect on the votes of a majority of the 38 former Commissioners to approve the Plaintiffs’ PUD rezoning application for the Monrovia Town Center; (d) Declaring that since the FACT Letter did not exist when the Frederick County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the Plaintiffs’ PUD rezoning application, the County Council violated Maryland’s impermissible change of mind rule by remanding this matter back to the Planning Commission with instructions to the Planning Commission to review the Plaintiffs rezoning application again from the beginning; (e) Declaring that County Council has taken a patently unreasonable amount of time in addressing the Court’s March 10, 2015 Order, that the County Council does not have a valid reason for the unreasonable delay, and that the delay violates the Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment rights against deprivation of property without due process of law; and (f) Granting such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

Are we to discern that they want the court to get rid of all antagonist influences? If others have problems with this development, are they not allowed to voice those concerns? And this FACT letter…how can anyone take Young, Shreve and Delauter’s word on this?  We hope, like in the case concerning Trout Run, that our fellow citizens ,who are guilty of nothing but voicing their concerns, are stricken from this suit. Can you imagine the precedence it would set if all developers had to do was to reach into their deep pockets to silence the dissenters with litigation?

Speaking  of litigation if you would like to help RALE out go to their website and click donate.

Hey Frederick City residents, care to pay double?

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Every few months the County Council sits down  with the Frederick Alderman to have a pow wow. We love that our local governmental entities make it a point to sit down and communicate with one another. Two of your Yokels are city residents and we have to say that we are always so impressed with these ladies and gentlemen. The way they work together, know their issues, and just seem so much more functional than some other government body. The main item on the agenda was to discuss school  construction.  Tony wants the city to pony up for the schools that are being built within the city limits. Thankfully Aldermanic heroes O’Connor and Kuzemchak were not having any of that. As Mr. O’Connor pointed out, city residents already pay county taxes. AND, it’s the county’s job–not the city’s–to build schools. Why should city residents be expected to pay twice?  And what kind of precedence would this set if local municipalities were expected to pay for school costs? Would that mean the incorporated areas of our county would be at an advantage when getting a new school? Or that they would be expected to come up with the money every time they needed a new school? Without any support, and all kinds of facts against him, Tony backtracked. There was some discussion of perhaps the city lending the county some money. Or perhaps the city paying for the extra large gym at Butterfly Ridge elementary.  We’ll see if this comes up at their May meeting.

Last night our RALE friends went before the Board of Zoning Appeals in another chapter of their long fight against the MTC. Here’s Steve McKay’s report on what happened last night:

RALE was at the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) tonight.

I’d like to tell you that we were successful, but we weren’t. The bottom line is that the BZA, which believes that County Staff is ALWAYS assumed to have acted correctly, decided that we didn’t count, that we didn’t have “standing”, and so they ignored the merits of our argument. I’m going to break this down but let’s first review what this appeal was about.

At the end of last year, AFTER the Council ordered the Monrovia Town Center case to start over again, we learned that an “Outlot” was being processed, based on the old, invalidated BoCC approvals, to accommodate the planned water tower to service Landsdale and MTC. The Planning Commission approved the Outlot plat recordation, and we appealed that Planning Commission approval. The Zoning Administrator (but not really, because it was really Cathy Mitchell acting on behalf of this guy) denied our appeal, saying that it was a “ministerial action” and, therefore, not subject to appeal. We then appealed their denial – because it was wrong – and that’s why we were there tonight.

Now let’s talk about the “standing” issue. First of all, the County didn’t even base their denial on a belief that we lacked standing. They based it entirely on their “ministerial” argument. It was the developer that raised the standing issue, and the County basically said – “oh yeah, we think that, too!” So the developer and the County were working together tonight – again – arguing that we don’t count. Their argument was based on the fact that RALE doesn’t own property. This is true. The much-fabled “RALE warehouse” doesn’t exist. But there is another element of standing that they ignored. You see RALE has “personal interests” in this case, and that should have been sufficient to establish our standing. You see, RALE has invested countless hours, effort and a whole lot of money (donated by all of YOU) to this effort. That’s the basis of our personal interest, our standing … that they ignored.

In the end, the appeals commissioners ignored that element and asked their County attorney whether we had standing or not. Not surprisingly, we lost the argument. On this point, I want to personally thank the people that testified about how RALE represents the community on this issue. The appeals commissioners didn’t hear it or acknowledge the point – but I did, and I thank you.

But now let’s look at the merits of the issue because although the BZA may have ignored this argument, or claimed ignorance to the issues (which was bull___), the County CLEARLY violated the zoning ordinance in submitting the Outlot for approval. Let’s start with the appropriate section of the Ordinance, shown below. The language and its implications are very clear. If an Outlot plat is part of a subdivision in a preliminary plan, then it must go through the final plat process.

In the other image, the preliminary/site plan CLEARLY shows the Outlot as part of the plan. This preliminary/site plan is NOT completed. Is NOT signed. Thus, the Outlot has not completed the final plat process, as required by the ordinance. It never should have been approved!

So you might wonder how the County attorney – Cathy Mitchell – responded to this argument. Basically, she didn’t! First, she said we lied but didn’t explain how. Then she justified the whole thing on the basis that the “County needed this plot of land” for the water tower. Now this pissed me off. We didn’t lie – we just caught them in an error. The language in the ordinance is clear and unambiguous and they violated that language. So I don’t appreciate being called a liar. Next, saying that the “County needed the land” is NOT a justification for violating the zoning ordinance. That’s Bull!

Beyond these points – which should have been enough – our argument boils down to this fundamental premise. This Outlot approval was based on a zoning approval from the BoCC. That approval was based on a record that has now been TWICE invalidated – by the Circuit Court and by the Council. You can NOT have a valid approval based on an invalidated record. Effectively, that record no longer exists. The Council decided to create a new record. The Planning Commission will now go forward, ignoring that past history. The record is null and void and any approvals based on that record are now moot.

So the bottom line is that County staff and Planning Commission should have never even entertained this Outlot plat recordation because it is based on an invalidated, non-existent record. But even so, they still violated the zoning ordinance by approving it! I’ll be real clear now – we will appeal this because it is wrong. It’s more time and money, but sometimes, you have to do what’s right.

Best regards, Steve

If you would like to help RALE with their legal expenses they are holding a raffle. Click here for more info.

September 15th meeting roundup. How a question is different from an observation edition.

Hello Local Yokel fans! We didn’t think this would be a very long meeting, but hey, why do we underestimate people’s ability to waste large amounts of time on personal vendettas? Sometimes I think we should watch our neighboring counties’meetings to see if they are anything like ours. Truly curious to know if we are unique. Anyone with any knowledge of this please comment.

If you were following our drinking game you had to take a shot of the usual right out of the gate. And then blah, blah, blah, Billy abstains from the agenda. (Doesn’t that mean he should abstain from having any input on anything on that agenda?) Let’s move on to Budget Transfers:

Listen to the baby possum Kirby!
Listen to the baby possum Kirby!

Everything is going smoothly. Kirby says he has a question on BT-16-051, a project for the Public Works Division. The nice fellas from this division sit at the table expecting an actual question. For those of you who are parents, do you remember when your kids were young (or perhaps they are still at this age) and someone would ask them if they had any questions? Instead of actually having a question, which of course your child insisted that they did, it’s just a story or an observation. Well, that’s what happened here. Instead of asking them anything, Kirby goes on about some previous project (one that it turns out he wanted to bid on), making some point that we really can’t follow about the bids being over the engineer’s estimate and he swears it’s a comparison. The nice fella tells Kirby that he’s only prepared to talk about this project and does he actually have a question. The answer to that is no, just an observation. So why did you make them get up and come to the table Kirby? Billy abstains on all of the budget transfers, we know yawn!

Confirmation of County Executives Appointments. All pass.

Ethics discussion. Read this nice article in the FNP today that breaks down the changes the panel is suggesting the council make. Predictably, Kirby has something to say about it. He wants to know why we have a commission if the County Executive is going to override it. It’s a complete waste of time in his mind. The only difference being that now 71% of the board can now resign in protest. Billy isn’t much better when he tries to make a point about the quorum. Now 3 out of the 5 have to show up. This change will make it so that 4 out  of 7 will make a quorum. That’s one more person than before, Billy points out. Mathias tries to explain to him that there will be more people on the board and that this really isn’t a point that he wants to get mired down in. (We hear ya!) After this, some good discussion from just about everyone takes place. What about having the commission members appointed by an independent body? That’s worth discussing. But then Tony takes it in a different direction and tries to reject the entire bill promising that he will sponsor it in the future. That motion is defeated. There will be  county workshop on this on October 6th and a future public hearing. If you have any input on this be sure to contact the council before that date.

A break was put on the agenda to reconvene at 7:00. Billy doesn’t like that he has to twiddle his thumbs until then. Which could be a valid point if Bud could reasonably predict how long the first half of the meeting will take. But since he can’t……(Actually Billy’s last parting shot was: “Well let’s not make any decisions like that again.” Nice, huh?)

After Billy sat in his office twiddling his thumbs for an hour and a half, the council reconvened to take up two public hearings.

The first was concerning the bill to amend the Water, Sewers and Sewage Disposal code:

Remember during the first reading of this bill when Billy said the government shouldn't collect small fines? Well, poor kitty cat took him literally.
Remember during the first reading of this bill when Billy said the government shouldn’t collect small fines? Well, poor kitty cat took him literally.

This bill is to fine people $250 for taking water from hydrants. Last time Billy said the county shouldn’t take people to court to collect small fines because it wasn’t fiscally sound. And tonight he reiterated that notion by saying $250 is not enough to stop offenders. So is he advocating for making the fine larger? There’s some discussion of the WSSC method of giving contractors a meter, which is not feasible for the way we do things. Especially since our water and sewer department doesn’t have the manpower. Kirby has some reasonable questions here. This is the Kirby we wish we could see all the time. And the fine representative from this department is more than prepared to answer them. We like good questions. Not observations not so subtlety masked as complaints. Bill is moved on.

Next up is discussion of the expansion of the MedImmune facility. We will leave you with this article if you want to read more. Very ably presented by Helen and Company. Passed as well, with only Billy saying no.

Public comment was only two fellas this evening. Steve McKay gave a very informative comment about his take on the ethics law. (Can we see the power point Steve?) And hopefully his comments will be taken seriously.

image

Another commenter asked the council to look into some building code violations that were going to jeopardize his solar panel business. And we have to say we love how respectfully this man was treated. Let’s keep that level of respect going!

And now…Council Member comments.

So it’s not a surprise to any of us that Kirby and Tony are against the prevailing wage. And that they are encouraging the public to attend Delegate Afzali’s meeting tonight. But we’ve said enough about that so let’s move on.

Billy. If only Thor had sent down a thunderbolt to knock out the power, then we could have been spared this last bit of nonsense. Billy wants it to be known that Paul and Blaine were not issued their proper engraved invitations to sit before the dais of the county council. How could they have known when to come? (David Gray somehow figured it out.) Billy wants to make a change to the record so it’s known to one and all that they were not invited. He gets into a verbal back and forth with Chomel, who tells him that council member comments are not about making motions. But somehow it happens anyway. But not before Jerry Donald gives Billy a good dressing down as to how their presence before the council would not have made a difference. And, Jerry continues, the council didn’t ask for this issue, it was given to them and they need to make the best decision based on the record not what was going on in Paul and Blaine’s heads. Billy’s motion fails. As do we all when our time is wasted so egregiously.

Black is white, up is down

We have a problem in this county. We have a problem in this country, but we will stick to the county. It’s marginally easier to deal with, no thanks to this madness.

A core group of people are not interested in productive discussions, compromises, or learning about anything that falls within the gray area of an issue. All sincerely held beliefs, all the time. No matter what is brought to the discussion, some people defiantly refuse to grasp what should be by now obvious. The same conversation stalls. Steve McKay’s excellent LTE takes a stab at the same old same old regarding the teachers on the council and the false equivalency to W. H. Delauter & Sons. He even has some new things to think about, if you’re the sort to think about things. And you are, aren’t you?! We love you for that!

At the Frederick County Council Watch Facebook Group you would get the impression that virtually all of the county agrees that Bud is the worst in every way, and that Kirby should get to do whatever he wants no matter how abusive or potentially corrupt. He and Blaine, who is still stoking the fire from across Church St., and Billy “don’t waste my time with emails from constituents” are our only hope and salvation, regardless of the topic at hand (the horror). This is in spite of a fairly bipartisan coalition of those who do not agree with any of this and find their shenanigans embarrassing. Remember the Republicans for Jan Gardner? They do, too, but they don’t qualify anymore. There is only one way to be a Republican, and all of those people who would try to introduce a counterpoint are to be shouted down immediately. There are many alleged “RINOs” vilified every bit as vehemently as anyone who has a D after their name. If not more so, considering the constant insults flung at Bud Otis, and to (hopefully) a lesser frequency some of the Republican members of local action groups. The concept that a Democrat is not an amoral maniac bent on destroying everything is too far in the abstract to even contemplate. This is in spite of the fact that many of us from both sides of the aisle agree on many things. This is the beauty of local politics. One that they would gladly endanger.

A few lonely commenters risk abuse by introducing points in the discussion proving not everyone agrees with all of the frothing whiz poppers. Rubberneckers can watch slack-jawed as they float ideas like, “Kirby Delauter brought the community together,” by petulantly and publicly refusing to donate to Catoctin Athletics (or anyone else in the community). Being an unrepentant jerk who strives to create a vacuum of decency needing to be filled is not an act of heroism. The community set out not just to fulfill the need for a donation, but to prove that our county is also full of nice people who don’t get hashtags and tantrums picked up and distributed by the AP.  It is astonishing that this apparently requires time and effort to clarify. Perhaps if people are packed together in a sealed box inhaling all of one another’s toxins it affects the lucidity of their thinking.

Somewhat off topic, but it seemed unfair to make Kirby look like the only unrepentant jerk. Look forward to some ranting about how awful Jen Fifield is and how justified Billy is for being rude (better that than PC, right Trump fans?).
Somewhat off topic, but it seemed unfair to make Kirby look like the only unrepentant jerk. Look forward to some ranting about Jen Fifield and how justified Billy is for being rude (at least he isn’t PC, right–because obnoxious equals heroism or something).

Furthermore, we were treated to a genuine work of art found here as an opinion column. A brief visit to the Frederick Council Watch Clusternut Festival will reveal some direct contradictions to this silliness. Connoisseurs of irony will find it delightful, if it doesn’t depress you too much. Is there a term yet for accidental satire? If not, there’s another vacuum to fill.

Partisan Games Make No Sense to Locals

A big slap on the back and a firm hand shake goes out to Steve McKay for an LTE in the Frederick News Post. His words align neatly with our sentiments about Bud Otis, and point out some of the problems that come along with partisan posturing in our community. Yer Yokel writers hope that these criticisms coming from within the party will have some impact.

Signing Grover Norquist's Pledge
Signing Grover Norquist’s Pledge: you get what you pay for.

Watching The Grover Norquist Fan Club speak against Bud Otis in the most recent county council meeting really chapped our hides. When Democrats like what a Republican is doing, it doesn’t make the man a turn-coat, it makes him a success. We are all conservatives: we want our needs met without waste. We are all liberals: we have needs that we acknowledge must be met with public funds. Considering public safety and property values, we must balance our taxing and spending priorities. Bud Otis is doing this without acting pants-on-head ridiculous.

Shreve and Delauter have a history of running their mouths with partisan rhetoric. Such attention seeking behaviors are great tactics for Bob Miller’s radio show ratings, and for nationally known politicians who want to use their elected position to launch their next gig on the box of crazy obnoxious talking heads. Using techniques pioneered by toddlers who don’t want to leave the sandbox is a farcical approach to local government, though. It makes good neighbors despise you for poisoning their well. People simply need the best possible result with the least amount of drama, particularly when we are likely to be bumping into each other at the schools, parks, sports fields, and libraries. Presuming we are going to have enough realists around here that we don’t let all of that fall into disrepair. Local officials do not enjoy the buffer that Rush Limbaugh has between himself and most of America. Nobody wants to buy Dittohead bumper stickers from the guys they elected to make sure their county continues to be a nice place to live. Clearly stating a refusal to think for ones’ own self makes people lose respect for constant unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances.

Furthermore, most people are engaged enough with their community–even if they don’t follow its politics–to realize that a single issue focus offered up by Grover Norquist is unmarketable at the local level. Community needs are more nuanced than that (and if you keep your thinking hat on, national needs are, too, but we’ll bet on having more success tackling the smaller messes we’ve stepped in around these parts).