Council Hears Testimony On Sustainable Monocacy Commission Bill

Residents suggest some changes to the legislation

 

Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Council took testimony Tuesday night on a bill to set up a Sustainable Monocacy Commission. The nine-member panel would recommend policies to improve water quality, and maintain and restore the ecological health of the River and its tributaries. The Commission would replace the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board which was staffed by representatives from Frederick and Carroll Counties. It went out of existence earlier this year as both counties decided to go their own way on managing the Monocacy River.

The citizens who testified said they support the Commission, but want to see some changes. Jennifer Kunze, the Maryland Manager for Clean Water Action, requested the Commission’s mandate be expanded.

“I really think it ought to include that the Monocacy Watershed and two of it tributaries, Linganore Creek and Fishing Creek, are the source of the 85% of the city’s drinking water, the water that comes out of the tap right here and in everyone’s home in the city,” she said. “To be investing in making sure the source water is as clean as it can possibly be.”

Another resident, Harry George of Frederick, wanted changes in the membership of the Commission. “Reduce from two to one representatives of owners of property adjacent to the Monocacy. And either increase from two to three the scientific representation,” he said.

That comment was echoed by Stan Mordensky, a retired science teacher and a former member of the Citizens Advisory Council. “The main part of this next Monocacy River Plan to me is having people that are science-qualified, leading, helping to direct and make decisions,” he said.

Under the bill, the Commission would have as members two owners of property adjacent to the Monocacy River; two property owners whose lands are not adjacent to the Monocacy; one elected official from the City of Frederick or a designee, who would be non-voting; one elected official of the County Council, or a designee, who would also be non-voting; one representative of the agricultural community; and two individuals having education or experience in the fields of biology, ecology, chemistry, earth sciences, environmental education, natural resources or related fields.

During the hearing, Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum, representing the County Executive, responded to the concerns raised. “When there’s  advocacy to add things like Linganore Creek and Fishing Creek, it makes perfect sense and there’s no disagreement,” he said. “The concern is that it somewhat becomes more confusing as we ad labels and definitions into this document.”

Harcum also addressed the idea of changes to the composition of the Commission. “The County Executive would be completely agreeable to changing that to say two residents of property not contiguous to the Monocacy River,” he said. “In the number section above, we define members as a requirement that they must be residents of Frederick County and registered voters. So it wasn’t really meant to be property owners. It was meant to be Frederick County residents.”

As for increasing the number of Commission members from nine, Harcum says when a panel gets too large it becomes unwieldy. “Suggestion is leave it at nine. Let it get stood up and let it get running. Let it get functioning. If the advocacy and the public interest continues at this level and grows, come back a year or so from now and consider adding additional members or adding other ways  to bring more participation into this,” he said.

Harcum said he will take these concerns to the County Executive. The legislation was introduced by Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer on behalf of the County Executive.

Public comment was also taken on Tuesday evening regarding the addition of a scuba facility to the list of permitted uses within a mineral mining district. The bill will be discussed and voted on at a later date.

The Council took no vote on the bill Tuesday night.

 

 

By Kevin McManus

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