Zon­ing text quashes pub­lic ap­peals

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Linda Red­ding, La Plata

In 2015, a huge sub­di­vi­sion on Billings­ley Road was ap­proved by the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Per­haps this was be­cause the re­port pre­pared and pre­sented by county staff omit­ted the fact that Billings­ley Road was in­ad­e­quate to safely han­dle the sub­di­vi­sion’s 1,300 ad­di­tional car trips. In a “de novo” ap­peal, ci­ti­zens were able to in­tro­duce this omit­ted fact as new ev­i­dence, and the county’s Board of Ap­peals re­versed the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s ap­proval of the sub­di­vi­sion.

In re­sponse, the county at­tor­ney has pro­posed a zon­ing text amend­ment (ZTA) to stop the pub­lic from be­ing able to suc­cess­fully file ap­peals by in­tro­duc­ing new, pre­vi­ously omit­ted ev­i­dence in ap­peals. This ZTA takes away “de novo” ap­peals; mean­ing no new ev­i­dence can be in­tro­duced in the ap­peal.

It is al­ready very dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive for the pub­lic to ap­peal in­ap­pro­pri­ate de­vel­op­ments that make our roads more dan­ger­ous; in fact there are far too many to be able to ap­peal since vir­tu­ally ev­ery de­vel­op­ment gets ap­proved.

Ci­ti­zens who don’t want to lose their rights to suc­cess­fully ap­peal should ask their com­mis­sioner not to adopt a ZTA pol­icy that bla­tantly and in­ten­tion­ally pre­vents the pub­lic from suc­cess­fully chal­leng­ing poor ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ci­sions by in­tro­duc­ing new ev­i­dence. The com­mis­sion­ers’ phone num­ber is 301-645-0550 and the email ad­dress is com­mis­sion­ers@ charle­scoun­tymd.gov.

A pub­lic hear­ing on this is­sue is sched­uled for Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. Those wish­ing to speak must sign up to do so prior to 6 p.m.

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