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Tuesday, June 16, 2015


George Wenschhof
The lengthy testimony at the last Frederick County Council meeting went as I expected. After all, the approval of the development of the Monrovia Town Center has been a battle during the previous two Frederick County administrations.
Two political factions that have been labeled pro-growth and anti-growth have made this development a focal point.
A little over eight years ago when Jan Gardner became president of the board of county commissioners, she and her four member bipartisan dream team would down zone properties across the county.
The property known as the Monrovia Town Center was one of them.  This action not only led to litigation against the county being instigated by developer Mr. Stanley, it also led to the election of a pro growth board of county commissioners led by Blaine Young four years later.
During the Blaine and Company administration, they would go about rezoning the properties down zoned by the Gardner administration.
During this time, the attorney for the developer set aside their lawsuit against the county
Among those properties rezoned was the Monrovia Town Center.  After a lengthy process that included many public hearings and countless hours of testimony, the development was approved to move forward.
Those who opposed the approval led by Steve McKay seized upon a letter submitted into the record at the end of the last public meeting preceding the approval vote to claim foul.
The letter was submitted into the record by Commissioner Paul Smith and was from the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation and stated their support for this development.
What was discovered was the letter never received a vote from the board of directors of FACT and after a legal appeal; a local Judge threw the hot potato back to the county and said the new county council should decide if this letter impacted the approval vote.
County attorney Michael Chomel would advise the council they would first need to choose to have a public meeting to decide if the letter had an impact n the prior approval and if they decided it did, they had several options.  One of which would be to choose to reopen the development approval process.  This would require the developer to start over from the beginning.
With Jan Gardner back in office, now as county executive with a county council so far voting 4-3 for what Gardner wants, the opponents of this development turned out to testify at the public meeting last week.
The testimony went as expected with opponents questioning the approval process and the developer saying he had met all of the approval criteria.
Following the conclusion of the public testimony, attorney Chomel explained to the council they have the option to close the record or they would have to disclose and make part of the record all emails received prior to their vote the next week on this matter.  He also pointed out the developer would also have the opportunity to respond to what had been received.
This was advice on procedure, but in the emotion of the two sides in this issue, a lot of confusion by several members of the council would ensue.
The vote would end up being a 4-3 vote to leave the record open with Republican council president Bud Otis once again voting with the Democratic council members.  Shortly after the recent election, Otis became president over fellow council member Billy Shreve when the three Democrats voted for him.
Lost in all the brouhaha, was a focus on whether the letter had an impact on the approval of the development by the former board of commissioners.
In fact, the testimony by the many who opposed the development, would testify the development was going to be approved by the previous board of commissioners, no matter what.
If the vote by the county council focuses on the testimony pertaining to the impact of the letter, the vote would have to be No.
However, those who oppose this development feel strongly the fix was in during the previous administration and want a reopening of the approval process.
Not so surprisingly, two council members, Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter who also served as commissioners who voted for approval, stated their vote was not influenced by the letter.  Former board president Blaine Young also provided an affidavit that the letter did not influence his vote.  I thought I heard former commissioner David Gray, who was the only vote against the approval, also stated he was not influenced by the letter.
It will certainly be a curiosity to see how county attorney Chomel advises the council prior to their vote and what their decision will be.
Either way the vote turns out, litigation is sure to follow.
Stay tuned.

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