County Council Holds Hearings Tues. Night On Four Bills

They also pulled one piece of legislation to adjust the school mitigation fees.


Frederick, Md (KM). A bill to abolish the Ethics Commission Nominating Committee went before the Frederick County Council for a hearing Tuesday night. The legislation sponsored by Councilman Billy Shreve would return the authority to appoint members of the Ethics Commission to elected officials, such as the County Executive and the County Council. Under the previous form of government, the County Commissioners made that decision.

Sara Matthews, a Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Frederick County, spoke against this legislation. “An independent Ethics Commission is an important element in assuring public confidence in government to avoid the reality or appearance of partisan involvement,” she said. “Recommendations for appointments to the Ethics Commission should come from a non-partisan group.”

The Nominating Committee reviews the applicants for seats on the Ethics Commission and referred the ones it considered most qualified to the County Executive, who passes those names to the Council for its approval.

Matthews   says the current nominating committee has worked well “and has offered very well qualified candidates to the County Executive and the Council,” Matthews said.

Another bill heard Tuesday night by the Council assure the impartiality of members of the Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals. Sponsored by Councilman Tony Chmelik, it would prohibit members form acting in a manner inconsistent with their roles on their respective boards. That would mean they could not make commitments, comments, pledges or statements that could affect the outcome of an issue brought before the Planning Commission or the Board of Appeals.

Matthews with the LUV spoke in favor of the legislation. “This bill provides guidelines to help the members of these two bodies avoid the appearance of impropriety, and serves as a reminder of their obligation to assess issues before them objectively and impartially,” she said.

But Steve McKay, a candidate for the County Council, said this bill could restrict a member’s 1st Amendment rights granted under the US Constitution. “If you want stronger ethics legislation, great. I’m there with you. But let’s focus on actions, not words. And in the process, let’s keep our 1st Amendment rights intact,” he said.

A third bill would allow farm-based breweries, wineries and distilleries to hold promotional events. But there are a few restrictions, such as no amplified music played past 9:00 PM and no overnight events. A one-time zoning certificate must be obtained by the farm-based craft brewery; winery or distillery  to hold these events.

Tom Barse is the owner of Still Point Farm and Milk House Brewery in Mount Airy. He testified in support of the legislation. “I think it addresses the concerns of citizens who are worried that the breweries, wineries and distilleries are becoming wedding venues or event venues that play can loud music late into the night. And it also allows us to continue to do our business,”: he said.

Another bill would set up a Senior Services Advisory Board which would consist of 11 members. It would advise the County Executive and the Council on issues of concern to local seniors. It would replace the  Commission on Aging, but current members could transition to the new Senior Services Advisory Board.

Sandra Wastler chairs the Commission on Aging. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the development of the new bylaws that will implement this legislation in conjunction with the Senior Services Division and the county legal department. And we continue to look forward to being able to promote the well being and quality of life of older adults in Frederick County,” she said.

The Council is expected to vote on these bills at a later date.

Prior to the hearing, Council President Bud Otis pulled a bill to adjust school mitigation fees from the agenda. He said some amendments are being proposed to this legislation. It was scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.


By Kevin McManus