Council Sends Three Charter Amendments To Referendum In Nov.

The panel also receives bills on medical cannabis, hotel/motel tax.

The Frederick County Council on Tuesday approved three amendments to the Charter which will be placed on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

One measure would change the deadline for the Council to approve the budget from May 25th to May 31st. “That would give you three or four additional working days to consider the budget,” says County Attorney John Mathias.

Another amendment would revise  the public notice requirement when it comes to budget changes of substance from two-weeks notice in the newspaper to two days notice on the County Website.

A similar amendment was also presented regarding changes of substance to county bills. Currently, the county is required to place two-weeks notice in the newspaper. The original amendment would have changed that to two-days notice on the county’s website, but Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater thought that was too short a time period. The Council agreed to extend that to four-days notice on the county website.

The general election is November 8th.

Two bills were also introduced to the Council. One would allow the growing of medical cannabis as a pilot program with special exception approval in the agricultural zoning district. The measure, sponsored by Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer, says the grower would have to file with the Maryland Cannabis Commission by November 1st, 2015, and the operation would have to be on a lot or parcel of at least 25-acres. The pilot program would last for eight years.

A second bill would increase the hotel rental tax rate from 3% to 5%. The revenue collected from this levy is turned over to the Tourism Council of Frederick County, minus an administrative fee for the county. The Tourism  Council also recommends that a portion of the revenue collected from the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center be dedicated to that facility’s debt service on capital expenses.

During the evening, the Council took testimony on a bill to continue the option for residential developers to make a payment of lieu of the  Moderately Price Dwelling Units requirement for their projects through June 30th, 2017. It’s set to expire on September 6th, 2016.
It was sponsored by Councilwoman Fitzwater. “The extension will allow time for the completion of a study that’s currently taking place right now. It’s a housing market study and analysis for Frederick County,” she said.

Speaking in favor of the extension was Bruce Zavos, the chairman of the Affordable Housing Council. “As you know, affordable housing is the engine that drives our thriving economy. We feel like this is a very important extension. And the housing study will give us direction for the next few years on how we can preserve and create additional affordable housing,” he said.

The revenue generated by the fees pays for affordable housing programs.

The Council is expected to take a vote on this bill at a later date.