We’ve been thinking on the At-Large candidates for the council. Much like the county executive race and District 2, the extra-party shenanigans have made things weird. Our hot take on this is that Bud Otis has no chance to win, but could very well screw the race up for other good candidates. We’ve appreciated Bud’s votes many times in the past, but we’re not pleased to see the vista from out here.
On the other hand, if Tony Chmelik would like to hand Lisa Jarosinski the District-2 seat, roll out the red carpet and be our guest–no offense to Steve McKay, with whom we find plenty of room to agree on local matters. We are also concerned, as others of our local political coterie (good info in that link from RALE’s Facebook page that you just passed) have noted alongside us, about who Bud is taking campaign contributions from. If money equals speech (and SCOTUS proclaims it so), you can see who he is listening to.
Imagine that you are such a sore loser that you lost in the primary. You look around and see that there are two great candidates in your district: Steve McKay (R) and Lisa Jarosinski (D)–two people who from what we hear on the street have mutual respect for one another. What’s a blowhard loser who loves overdevelopment and hearing himself talk gonna do? (Those who watched last night’s meeting know that’s Tony Chmelik–he said all the angry man words yesterday because he is unlikely to get an extension on his deadline.)
If you said mount a write-in campaign for the Sour Grapes party, step up and claim your prize…
Mr. McKay is a conservative, but he seems to be shunned by the local Republican party groundlings, probably because he has integrity and class, and in case you haven’t seen what’s going on over on that side of the aisle here’s a link for you.
Everyone knows third party candidates don’t work out–remember Ross Perot?–and Tony Chmelik damn well knows that. Draw your own conclusions about his motive.
The bottomless well of drama with regards to the Monocacy River Board brings up some particular issues we have with the inconsistently applied logic surrounding this. (e.g. Border Wall: GREAT!!! Monocacy River Health: LAND GRAB!!!)
We recently hosted a bit of a brouhaha on our wall when we got persnickety about Sheriff Non-Expert spending more time mugging for the Fox News cameras about border issues he is ill acquainted with, in spite of his famous field trip, than dealing with the likes of human trafficking and opioids (the third pillar of #BeBEST, y’all! get with the program, already). It’s a bug up our toots that the same Wall Enthusiast Clan has labeled efforts to preserve the river as a land grab when it is not, yet taking ranchers in Texas’ access to the waterway their cattle use actually would be a land grab that would destroy their livelihoods. heavy sighhhhhhhhh
Here is a sample: OH NOES…the example we were set to provide was from a Local Wall Enthusiast who apparently deleted his dumb argument when confronted with how ill informed he is about stuff that happens way far away. Yippee? This is a great opportunity to note that the same fool was back and forth and up and down with some ladies disputing him in the comments, but as soon as a man told him he didn’t know what he was talking about, he tucked tail and ran, deleting the evidence of his misguided assumptions. Protip: mansplanations are not better than information.
And on the subject of information, we know Billy Shreve has a history of being loosely acquainted with science. Holy moly, that old historical reference is a doozy. We were having a Local Yokel STEM night and discussing a science article about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park has changed the river health there because now the deer stay out of the deathtraps that river valleys create for them and their population is better controlled by natural predation, so the vegetation on the river has helped to create a barrier against erosion. Apparently Yellowstone is trying to be Yellowstone and let the Grand Canyon keep doing its thing. Billy will be sad. The fact that we had all individually read or seen something about this brought us to our next point. Being ignorant is a choice, whether you are talking about eminent domain or erosion.
Anywhooooo. M.C. Keegan-Ayergoes above and beyond in the name of transparency and service to the citizens who have vested interests and legitimate concerns, and who’s against that? All of the Republicans on the Council. Isn’t that a great irony? Well, actually…not so much anymore, sadly. More like par for the course. Philosophy has nothing to do with their decision making. Tribalism is the whole picture. No wonder Bud Otis disassociated from the party and has gone rogue independent maverick-like.
If you will click through the link above about M.C. Keegan-Ayer’s resolution in the Frederick News Post, we would like to make a special mention shoutout to the astute engaged citizenry commenting on the article there. We thought “petulantly lazy” as a description of Billy Shreve perfectly addressed his conduct both yesterday and since forever. We would also like to boost one comment in particular–that of Matt Seubert, who is the current president of RALE.
Let’s stop voting for people who don’t care about anything but causing problems and creating scenes. It will make our hobby very boring, which would be better for everyone in Frederick County. In fact, if we could do that, the whole country would be better off.
Your Yokel Ladies have been in and out of this meeting for the past couple of days. It’s a lot to contend with, so we are chunking it up and throwing it down, bit by bit.
No Shreve, what a relief! Meetings are always nicer without him!
Steve Horn and friend are in the house to present the Livable Frederick plan. You can go to this website to see all the details, plus the entire plan as it stands today. We say today, because there are still chances for change. If you read our drinking game, you saw that Kirby called this plan a POS. He doesn’t use exactly those words, but he does have things to say. For example, he wants Steve Horn and Co. to explain why the modeling software they use isn’t some kind of soothsayer. It is explained, ever so gently, that all modeling is, by definition, a guess. However, Mr. Horn also points out that the accuracy really isn’t the point here. The point is to see what different paths the county can take based on the possible outcomes that may occur. It’s called PLANNING. Well, Kirby isn’t done. He tells us that the market should decide where people live because the market is NEVER wrong. That’s right people: NEVER. Well, he is also very gently told why that isn’t true. Jerry clears up the erroneous notion going around that this plan is going to downzone properties. It is not. Tony complains some, but it’s pretty much nonsense. After an hour this discussion wraps up.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who pays attention around here, Tony was the council member contacted to introduce legislation having to do with Off Track Betting (OTB). He brings in four representatives, including local lawyer Rand Weinberg, to discuss this pending legislation. Essentially, they want to identify a local restaurant to set up OTB, kinda like Cracked Claw before it closed down. First reading of this bill will be soon.
The Veterans Affairs Council had a lovely professional presentation that introduced the panel of distinguished advocates. Please keep doing what you do. We are relieved to see this move forward. There isn’t a lot of new information to report. Well, other than that a miracle of trans-partisanship that occurred when Bud Otis (unaffiliated), M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D), and Tony Chmelik (R) pared down the originally proposed bill, which had “timed out,” and according to the knowledgeable panel this bill is a reasonable step forward in accomplishing the goal of having a “one stop shop” for veterans to get assistance in accessing the services that are available to them. We know this is a huge problem, and the point that it is unreasonable to expect a veteran with PTSD to sit on the phone through a menu of options for 13 minutes is absolutely true. There were other ghastly anecdotes, so please know that we thank you all for working on this, and we apologize that we aren’t giving this the focus that it is due. There is just so much to say about so much today (and another meeting tonight, people!).
There was the Interagency Internal Audit Authority thing: a panel of accountants working on a bill to codify the existence, charges, and governance of their authority (the interagency aspect is the county, FCPS, and FCC). Work on this bill began in 2014 with the transition to charter government, and they are doing the formal work to ensure that the appointments to the body will not be under the control of those being audited. In other words, a county executive should never be making those appointments, nor should FCPS or FCC be sending their people to do the work. They propose that the current members will nominate future members. Sounds good.
Then we reach the issue of the proposed pipeline under the Potomac River at Hancock. Some environmentalists (yay! go Sierra Club!) ask that a letter be drafted–ideally from the Council, but if not, by individuals on the Council– asking for Governor Hogan to withhold the 401 Water Quality Certificate and request a full environmental impact review of this project from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). This is requested because:
We are downstream from an 8 inch pipeline that would tunnel under the Potomac River to connect a proposed pipeline in West Virginia with an existing one in West Virginia
A bunch of municipal governments both up and downstream have already said, “Hey, let’s be careful!” and sent their own letters, including Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Washington County, Montgomery County and P.G. County. hm.
The geology (that’s rock formations, yo) of the land they will tunnel under is extra risky, because the Karst geology (science term) is Swiss-cheesey, so if a blowout occurred, the chemicals could be dispersed in any direction. Many pipelines already go under the river, but none through this type of geological formation.
Frederick County get lots of our drinking water from the Potomac (91%). And the City of Frederick also gets some of its water supply there, too, (17%) so we would theoretically not want to risk poisoning our water supply.
The Chesapeake Bay is also downstream (for good measure).
This is all well and good for the reasonable, and even seems likely for the less reasonable eventually, reluctantly, however it pains them, to agree that we shouldn’t be reckless with our drinking water. However, it must be noted that we have two drilling savants, both Republican, on our esteemed County Council, so the curt reaction to the idea of a letter from Tony Chmelik was, “It depends on what the letter says.” Well, they only asked for a letter to exhibit caution and thorough review, not to declare pipeline construction forever abolished, so the hang up is hard to understand, but thank goodness we could be treated to some gassy emissions from these guys. We probably don’t even need a pipeline, since we create our own energy like that. Fun fact: one of your local ladies used to work in the gas pipeline accounting, so we know a thing or two round here, too. Gas is tricky to account for, as a matter of fact, due to particle dispersion. That and the Swiss-cheesy thing are a double tricky combo.
**Ten Minute Break because they’ve been there since 4:30; this is taking an eternity and there is a lot left.** Stay tuned. Holy moly, they’re trying to kill us, y’all. There’s another meeting tonight, you know.
So it seems kind of like Billy’s blissful absence and Kirby “#ImReallyRunning4CountyExecutive” Delauter’s recently located partial degree of restraint (NB: we didn’t watch Council Member Comments, so we could be wrong about that) freed the air for Tony Chmelik to fill the role of council insurgent. At this point we are losing all the patience that we never had, but Ray Barnes and the legal advice come with him, and also Steve McKay, think that the move to ax the section of the code pertaining to DRRAs entirely is no bueno and will cause a bunch of legal problems and their advice is to not move forward with that. They have other ideas. And obviously Tony has a problem with them going before Dog and Everyone implying that he meant to do away with DRRAs forever (“What would the developers think???” <<clutches pearls>>) when he would NEVER. He and Jerry Donald have a back and forth that is pretty priceless, wherein Jerry admits that was his goal, and he also thought that was what Tony wanted. We are pleased with Jerry Donald. He is funny but not mean. We have a hard time with that. Then Jessica Fitzwater asks the question we are wondering too, which was, to paraphrase in LocalYokel jargon, “WTF were we trying to do for real then?”
We have finally thought to ourselves somewhere in the midst of the MXD discussion: we do not like this bill either. We would all be pissed if we bought a house and then they changed the zoning and we lived next to a warehouse now. We aren’t going to listen to this anymore. We. Are. So. Done.
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?”
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:
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.
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 herefor more info.