This morning’s Council legislative session was a great one. I am beyond thrilled that the moratorium on development for one year, in two watersheds in Ellicott City passed unanimously, without grandfathering. 😊
I am also pleased the Bill to move the new courthouse project passed. There has been a lot of concern expressed about the new courthouse project. Some deal with fiscal budgeting priorities because of this expensive long-term project. Some express fear that removing the courthouse from its current location will hurt OId Ellicott City commerce. Some even deny we need a new courthouse at all.
I share none of those concerns.
I have spent much time over the years in the circuit courthouse, due to business and civic interests, and even jury duty. I have seen first-hand the intense degree of crowding. Yes, one can compare this issue to crowded schools, and I have been a strong advocate for trying to remedy that problem; however, it is not the same. When you have a crowded courthouse, where there is no room for private conversation, the accused of violent crimes sit with their victims, attorneys can barely get space to speak to their clients outside the earshot of the other side, dockets are lengthy so justice is delayed. I hate to compare or prioritize intensely important needs of public service over others, and we actually really don’t have to here. We can realize we need a new courthouse for very important reasons, without assuming it will take from others. The public/private partnership deal funding this project, I believe, allays the budget stress. I don’t see it taking funds from the Schools, or other County needs or proposed projects.
As for the removal of the current courthouse hurting Old Ellicott City, that is simply not true, and I daresay even the opposite is true. If we were to renovate in the current location, it would likely create even more impervious surface, right above Main Street. I have spoken to several business owners there, over the years, about the courthouse, and they have told me they do not believe they get business from it being located there. Council Member Weinstein stated at the legislative session, where the project was approved, that he had also heard that same commercial issue. If we relocate the courthouse, then there will be an opportunity to put something else there that could include a goal of drawing more business to Main Street.
Lastly, I will say that choosing the new location was not easy, as it required a lot of space, and not having to buy another parcel to start the process was a good goal. If this location benefits Judge Gelfman personally, due to her ownership of a nearby business, than one can certainly desire to look into claims of conflicted interest, but that does not negate the rest of the facts on this topic.
I was disappointed that the Bill adding restrictions to scenic roads was tabled, but I am hopeful that will get resolved timely. I also believe that the mobile home tax repeal will get done fairly quickly, because they were just researching the affects of adding any need restrictions.
A big thank you goes out to the Council today, for putting public safety above ALL at this time.