The Latest News from County Executive Jan Gardner
Bipartisan Ethics Bill Advances
I worked with State Sen. Michael Hough to merge our competing bills from last year into a single bill that we both support. The new legislation does two things.
- First, it expands the list of people involved in pending land use cases who are prohibited from donating to the campaigns of decision makers. The definition of an applicant's agents would include traffic consultants, architects, lawyers & engineers.
- Second, the bill requires members of four boards - the Planning Commission, Board of Appeals, Ethics Commission, and the state Liquor Board - to step down from the board within 48 hours of opening a campaign finance account.
Frederick County leads the state with the strongest ethics laws, and I am pleased to see us raising the bar once again in a bipartisan manner.
Citizens Deserve Open & Transparent Government
From day one, my administration has been focused on restoring trust in government by providing an open and transparent process. Good government depends on it. That's why I have called on the County Council to hold public hearings on several bills I introduced intended to address infrastructure needs generated by residential growth.
The first bill updates school mitigation fees that some developers choose to pay so they could build in areas where schools are already overcrowded. My bill revises the fees to reflect current school construction costs. The second bill I introduced ensures that developer agreements are used responsibly and that a public benefit is provided to existing residents.
I asked the Council to restore the public process that we've used successfully over the past three years, and allow citizens to participate in an open and transparent government. You have a right to know what your government is doing and should have a right to participate and comment.
I also have concerns that public hearings are being held for legislation that has not been presented or explained to the public. An example is a bill that's been proposed to allow warehouses and distribution centers in areas zoned for mixed used development (MXD). The bill's sponsor has offered no explanation, and there has been no workshop. To help let the affected public know, county staff notified property owners living in and near MXDs of the Council's proposal.
Make your voice heard! Become engaged in the public process. The public hearing on the MXD bill has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Winchester Hall, 12 E. Church St., Frederick. You can also submit comments to the County Council by emailing CouncilMembers@FrederickCountyMD.gov. The same e-mail address can be used to urge the Council to hold public hearings on the tabled legislation.
US 15 Tops List of Transportation Priorities in Frederick County
Each year, the County submits a list of its top priority transportation projects to the State for funding consideration. I'm proposing the widening of US 15 from I-70 to MD 26 as our top construction priority so we can improve crucial access to jobs and help residents in their daily travels. Our municipal leaders agree. No other stretch of highway in the state fails at every interchange during both the morning and evening rush hours.
Other priorities for Frederick County include widening MD 85 from the bridge over Ballenger Creek to Guilford Drive, and widening MD 194 from MD 26 to Walkersville High School. Both of these projects address safety and capacity issues. A draft of the Annual Transportation Priorities Review can be found online.
What projects do you think are needed most? I'm holding a Transportation Town Hall on Thursday, February 8th, to hear your thoughts before finalizing the list. You can come to Winchester Hall at 7 p.m. or ask your questions through Facebook, Twitter or YouTube live during the town hall.