"The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) anticipates that Bill 18-23 could sustain or marginally widen racial and social inequities in land use in the County as its benefits would disproportionately accrue to land developers that are disproportionately White. To advance RESJ in land use and zoning processes, OLO proposes modification and alternatives to current law for Council consideration."
A number of powerful speakers at the public hearing also spoke to the equity issues raised when neighborhoods of less means grapple with complicated land use topics without the service of a public watchdog - furthering the conditions highlighted in the OLO report that led to widespread and systemic theft of land from minority groups over generations.
The hearing record will be open until April 25th - please take a moment to make your voice heard - now more than ever we need a People's Counsel.
Losing the OPC has left the door open to scores of (nearly 100!) zoning text amendments crafted by some County Council members. These land use changes (some sweeping) often bump up against current master plans and cause communities, many with little resources to defend, detriment. The full description of the role of the People's Counsel from the County Code is here.
Councilmember Friedson has just introduced bill 18-23 that will permanently weaken the office - removing the ability for the office to identify master plan conflicts or even participate in public meetings.
How can they work for the public interest without participating in public meetings?
Please take two minutes to let the Council know - we need the OPC back!
Here is the action alert from the MC Civic Federation and our note sent last year to ask for the Counsel's return:
Fund the Office of the People's Counsel - FY 2023 Operating Budget
Dear County Executive Elrich,
There are compelling reasons to include this in the FY 2023 budget as cited in a strong letter sent to your office yesterday from MCCF. Chief among the reasons listed:
“Furthermore, the County Code requires that prior to introduction, any proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) be reviewed by a ZTA Advisory Group that includes the OPC. One of the reasons often cited by the Planning Department for the complete rewrite of the County's Zoning Ordinance (which was a seven year process) was to discourage the use of Zoning Text Amendments that bypass the master planning and land use public processes. However, since the Zoning Rewrite was adopted, there have been over 100 ZTAs proposed by a small number of Councilmembers. All of the ZTAs were proposed without the benefit of the OPC review.”
The call for return of the People’s Counsel is not new. I had, for example, included it in this 2019 piece in Maryland Matters
In truth, if looking at this from purely a dollars cost, the reestablishment of the position will save much in governmental time and money spent churning over poorly conceived ZTAs etc.
Above all… this is about just and equitable governance.