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.

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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).