With the first of two February council meetings under our belt, the council has considered and voted on a wide range of proposed legislation with more on the agenda for our February 21 meeting.
In my January column, I touched on one of these bills, the revision of the county council map. The Anne Arundel County charter requires that an appointed charter review commission make recommended adjustments to the county map every 10 years, based on the most recent census data. This is done to provide equal representation among districts so that none of the seven districts is either under or overrepresented. The 2020 census data for our county indicates that our growing population should translate to 83,500 residents in each council district. Most of the growth in the last 10 years has been in West County, leaving District 4 overpopulated and several other districts underpopulated, including our district. Bill 15-22 made simple adjustments to district lines, minimizing the number of residents who would change districts and representation on the council. The bill passed unanimously. Our district, District 5, will now include portions of Gambrills and Severn, as well as additional areas of Millersville in addition to Severna Park and the Broadneck peninsula.
Also discussed at our February 7 meeting was Resolution 1-22, also known as the Public Campaign Finance Charter Amendment. Charter amendments are introduced as resolutions, as they are not binding legislation. A charter amendment resolution requires five affirmative votes to make it onto the ballot for voters to consider. So, what is public campaign financing? In simple terms, the system sets restrictions on private donations and creates a method for fund matching using county revenue, for those candidates who choose to utilize it.
Of the 24 counties in Maryland, only a handful have set up a public campaign finance system. The price tag varies by county, ranging from $1 million to $11 million. Each county decides the terms of the system through the legislative process and allocates funds for the system in the annual budget, a budget funded primarily by the taxes you pay.
I committed to you that I would be fiscally responsible and with that is the belief that tax dollars should be used for positions and services that help our county function, like police, fire, education, and improved infrastructure like our aging roads and sidewalk systems, not to fund political campaigns. Resolution 1-22 failed.
Two bills I introduced in November passed on February 7 with supermajority support. Bill 103-21 will allow for the presence of a gunsmith at indoor firearms ranges that are in a C3 zone. C3 is a moderate to heavy commercial zone. Indoor ranges are allowed through a special exception process in our two heaviest commercial zones (C3 and C4). Special exceptions require advertising to the public and a hearing before the administrative hearing officer to gain approval. While we currently have only one indoor range located on a C3 parcel, the passage of Bill 103-21 allows for a gunsmith to be on premise. Gunsmiths provide a critical role in firearm safety as they maintain and inspect firearms for worn parts that could compromise safety mechanisms.
Bill 104-21 added to our zoning code the zoning locations that a school bus storage facility can locate. Surprisingly, with two dozen school bus contractors located in our county, school bus storage facilities have been absent from our zoning code. If a school bus contractor would like to move or expand to a second location, our code lacks zoning regulations to locate. The location of school bus storage facilities is vital to serving the students and families of Anne Arundel County efficiently, especially as the Board of Education recently adopted new school start times for the 2022-2023 school year. Bill 104-21 allows for the permitted location of school bus storage facilities in our higher zoned industrial areas, and our highest commercial areas (C4) as well as moderate to high commercial areas (C3) if certain conditions are met.
As the council looks forward to our February 21 meeting, it is important to note some key pieces of legislation that may be of particular interest to our district. Bill 16-22 is an ordinance concerning the police accountability board that was recently introduced. To give background, during the 2021 General Assembly session, House Bill 670 passed, which ends the longstanding Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights effective July 1, 2022. The state bill also mandated each county to create a new multi-tiered police accountability process in its place to investigate allegations of misconduct.
The state-required process consists of the police accountability board, the administrative charging committee, and the trial board. Bill 16-22 lays out the proposed details for Anne Arundel County, including the number of appointments, terms of members, qualifications of members, and the role of the executive and legislative branch in the appointment process. I strongly encourage you to view this important piece of legislation and weigh in. Anne Arundel County has always been a leader in police-community relations, and we must ensure that we have the most balanced process in place to continue the strong relationship between our law enforcement officers and our communities. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please reach out to me for more information.
Finally, I am pleased to share that I introduced Bill 21-22 after more than two years of research, meetings with residents, communities, county agencies and stakeholders. Bill 21-22 focuses on cluster development, an element of smart growth, which can be a great asset in development design when used as intended. Unfortunately, this type of development hasn’t always been utilized as intended. The bill I have introduced clearly defines what cluster development is, provides for residential zones where this development design can be applied, creates conditions for its use, and prohibits certain modifications, including modifications for required open space.
Bills 16-22 and 21-22 are set for public hearing on March 7, 2022.
You can review these and all other bills on the Anne Arundel County Council website at www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council.
For any questions, concerns, or to sign up for the District 5 newsletter, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is an honor to serve you and your family.
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