Will Council Members be against Fiscal Disclosure?
The vote on Current Council Bill 24 is going to be very telling. It has two main issues. One is enforcing an already existing financial disclosure requirement in the process where developers ask to change the rules. In Zoning Regulation Amendment (ZRA) requests, CB24 will obtain petitioners' business relationship information, and update contribution information as the process moves forward and gets to the Council’s agenda. The other issue in CB24 is limiting the time a ZRA request can be made prior to a General Plan update (a process that lays out planning for development in the County every ten years).
The Howard County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to support CB24, co-sponsored by Council Members Liz Walsh and Deb Jung. That should really speak to us. The BOE has not agreed on much lately, and sides are seemingly in entrenched camps on issues. Any unanimous vote there lately should be commended and given great weight.
It is difficult to come up with a rational reason as to why the disclosure issue in the Bill should pose any problem whatsoever. To vote against that transparency would be a disservice to constituents. As for the ZRA filing restriction timing, it is MAXIMIZED at one year to hold off prior to the huge endeavor of updating the general plan that entails review of regulations to come in line with greater County planning needs. This can be thwarted by attempts to change zoning rules that apply to the entirety of zones across the County. The ZRA process takes months to complete, so the reality is that for only a few months prior to the County trying to enact changes, they would be disallowing ad hoc petitioner changes happening instead.
If the general plan is updated early, then the restriction could not even apply. CB24 will not create a hardship for property owners, especially since the process already exists for a specific change to a property’s zoning needs by using a piecemeal process to apply only to that parcel, versus a ZRA which changes the rules for everyone in that zone. It is so often a contentious issue anyway to deal with balancing individual project needs with unintended consequences for similar properties when changing the rules via a ZRA, but to do so while the County is in the process of planning new land use guidelines just makes no sense. The Anne Arundel County Council just unanimously required this same legislative change, and now it’s our turn.
Let your Council Members know you expect a YES vote on CB24, email them at CounciLMaiL@howardcountyMD.gov