We Harford Countians are about to lose a very important right – the right to know why the Zoning Administrator (ZA) made a decision that may harm our property. This right to an Interpretation is a right we have today that will be taken away if Bill 08-44 (the new zoning code) is passed as presently written.
Under Harford’s zoning code today, if I believe a mistake has been made by the ZA and his mistake will harm my property, I can write him a letter asking for an “interpretation”. I can’t just complain because I don’t like something. First, I must live near the property that is the problem, close enough that common sense says that my property will be harmed. Second, my letter must cite the part of the zoning code that I think is being violated and the specific facts that cause me to believe a mistake has been made.
Section 267-7 of today’s zoning code says that the ZA then owes me a written explanation (“interpretation”) of how he made that decision. However, the County Executive’s ZA has rewritten Section 267-7 to take away interested citizens’ rights to receive interpretations.
Why? Surely the county can spare a few minutes to respond to the one or two interpretation requests from interested citizens that typically arrive in a year. Anyone can make a mistake, and the important thing is to find the mistake and fix it. Not take away the neighbors’ ability to protect their property.
Section 267-7 of Harford’s new zoning code, as proposed in Bill 08-44, must be restored to the way it is in today’s zoning code. Otherwise we lose our right to hold the ZA accountable for harmful mistakes and the mistakes won’t be corrected.
That’s just wrong.
We need to convince the County Council to restore the rights that the ZA wants to take away. If you want to keep your right to Interpretations, you need to stand up and say so at the County Council’s public hearing Tuesday (September 16th) from 6:00 – 7:30 in the “black box” building at 212 S. Bond St, Bel Air.
It would be wrong to lose our rights.
I have been screaming about this for almost a year ! Now you notice !
Maybe the treatment I have received regarding the HdG City Yacht Basin was the test case…to see if anyone cares. In that case an administrative decision was made by Mayor Dougherty and it was final…unquestionable…and subjective. Although its still an ongoing issue the case shows the desire to not include pesky citizens in decisions about their lives. In my case the decision was made because I exercised my rights to complain about issues and they simply demanded silence. The condition to use that marina was giving up my rights to speak out, something I’m not willing to do.
The only option I had was to go to the circuit court with 20 or 30 thousand dollars in hand and sue the city. With this burden very few can afford to challenge these decisions.
I guess now the planning and zoning can be used as leverage against citizens as the check and balances will be removed. Without checks and balances and process we are in trouble.
Go Dagger ! !
Its Nice When Your Tax Dollars Are Used Against You !
GO DAGGER ! !
vietnam vet says
Richiec your voice is being heard. they would very much like to shut you up. the right’s of the people are in danger. speak loud & clear.
I suspect most citizens are out of touch with Zoning issues until it directly affects them. It sounds like it is common courtesy to continue with the “today’s” code. Somehow courtesy gets overlooked today…Thanks Richie for your insight into this.
I have built, from scratch, three recycling plants. Each one had to be brought in front of zoning. The second one was rather pesky in that it was coveted property in Baltimore city. It was waterfront property and a car importer, terminal operator, wanted it..and didn’t want us to know he really needed it. (hmmm…sounds like my house)
Car import terminal operators are supposed to have whats called a shuttle permit for each car moved on a public highway. They may NOT use dealer or transporter plates as these cars do not yet have titles. A permit is for one car and was 4 dollars per sticker. They are also only good within a mile or two from the terminal.
Needless to say the terminal operator wanted to not allow our business. We had a hearing and presented the facts, made concessions, and prevailed in our use with the good help of Councilman Stukes of Baltimore City.
When the terminal made frivolous complaints that we didn’t live up to our conditional use…we fought back. They were using one permit to move many cars…the drivers would carry the permit rather than stick them to the car. In this way they only needed to buy a few stickers. We had the southern district police check the cars being moved and they stopped them in their tracks. For a few days , until they procured a vast amount of stickers, they had to truck the cars across the street. This terminal moves few hundred thousand cars a year. This translated to over a million dollars in additional expense for the game they wanted to play. They never complained again.
This aint my first time to the rodeo.
Go Dagger ! !
Nor did we.
Go Dagger ! !
I attended the public hearing last night on the Zoning Code Rewrite. P & Z made a presentation on the major changes and there was some Q & A with Council members. I heard several references to confusion and misinformation swirling around the Section 267-7 (right to interpretation) issue, among others. Mort, what was your take on that?
I also saw plenty of people in the audience with ties to the development industry, but couldn’t stay for the public comment period. Anyone have a report?
If they are saying that there is confusion they are aware that there is backlash…..keep the noise level up…its the only way…!!!!!
Go Dagger ! !
Usually when you see a change of this nature its in anticipation of a looming problem anticipated by an authority. A project they know will be opposed for example. This type of change makes it harder to oppose a bad project. if they have been lobbied to change the rules before the proposed project is presented that may be a problem. Maybe some rules regarding disclosure of lobbyists meetings with officials be made available to the public.
What about the calender of all public officials meetings and who the person met with is affiliated with made public…a check and balance to make it easy to find a connection.
Sunshine…transparency….make great disinfectant !
Go Dagger ! !
Cindy, the words used by the government are TECHNICALLY correct, but it’s what they do not say that’s crucial. The “right to Interpretations” argument hinges on whether the government must give WRITTEN INTERPRETATIONS to citizens. If the answer isn’t in writing, or doesn’t answer the question asked, it’s useless. It can’t be appealed to either the County Council or a Maryland court because, without it, there’s usually nothing TO appeal. So as was pointed out by citizens at the hearing, the government has been simply ignoring the current law and says “if you don’t like it, sue Harford County in Maryland Circuit Court.” Oh, and it’s our tax dollars that are used by the government to defend themselves against us.
Any wonder they want to cut us “pesky citizens” out of our only real chance to question what they’re doing — by removing this right from the new zoning code?!?
Yes Mort…if you see mt first post…that’s exactly what the Mayor of hdg tried to pull on me…an action without documentation….the withholding of a signature…its non appealable.
That’s bad business.
It took almost a year to get the true story out.
Go Dagger ! !
Here’s the deal on appeals: Today we have the right to appeal zoning-related issues to the County Council (they’re the Board of Appeals). Citizens can go to the Peoples Counsel, a lawyer paid for by our tax dollars, to represent us on such matters. If Counsel believes we have a valid legal point, he will represent us. If not, he won’t, and if we still want to “pony up and sue” we can, but it’s likely a waste of time and (lots of) money.
Again, Planning & Zoning is TECHNICALLY correct that we aren’t losing the right to appeal IN COURT (Maryland judicial system), but we do lose the “free” ability to appeal for justice locally to the County Council, who is more attuned to local land uses and Harford’s own zoning code.
Here is an artical from a few years ago about a few small changes to out property rights. How fast we forget !
Go Dagger ! !
What about the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance? I thought the Work Group recommended lifting moratoriums on schools after 5 years regardless of whether or not they were operating over 105% of capacity. That didn’t make it into the legislation but was there any public discussion?
People….never ever ever ever…give up a right…dont get talked into it…dont get coerced…intimidated…nuthin ! !
NEVER EVER GIVE UP A RIGHT. !!!
They dont come easy !
Go Dagger ! !
Haven’t heard much discussion about the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). Few people (including the newspapers) know that APFO does NOT stop residential BUILDING in overcrowded school districts. It only stops approval of more PLANS for more residences in that school district.
Once a plan is approved , the developer can essentially build whenever he wants to. So if he waits 10 years or whatever, he’s till allowed to build even if the schools are really overcrowded by then.
That’s what causes the overcrowding problem. That, plus the fact that Harford and Maryland rules require that schools be built in reaction to homebuilding rather than us planning for where we want to encourage development and putting the schools, roads, etc. there. We’re just reacting, not planning ahead.
Craig Ward (developer) was right when he made this point at Tuesday’s hearing. There’s lots of zoning but no planning. And that’s one of the most frustrating disappointments of this whole zoning code mess. No new ideas.
Oh please don’t plan like the addmitedly failed northern Va. and DC suburbs….!
Safeway…traffic light with 35 cycles, all at 3 seconds a piece…..and a horseshoe of town houses around the Safeway, paneia bread, and target. Can you guess whats 5 miles down the same road……
Giant…traffic light with 35 cycles, all at 3 seconds a piece…..and a horseshoe of town houses around the Giant, Starbucks , and Kohl’s….Can you guess whats 5 miles down the same road….???
Klein’s …traffic light with 35 cycles, all at 3 seconds a piece………..wa wa…wa wa wa…wa wa…wa wa wa wa wa ….wa wa. !
Speaking of planning…hey x farmers…heirs of farmers…future developers…
Have you seen the BIO DIESEL signs all over the Pensylvania areas just outside of the northern county….plant some corn…or lease to someone that will…..there are to many wall marts already…
Your sittin on an oil well !
there’s some planning for ya !
Go Dagger ! !
To Expand on my last…
In grew up in the city…one thing you learned…you never spend the principal that daddy left when he croaked….the same can be applied to a farm. In this day you can get an Agra co to use the farm and pay you rent for a lifetime. You can even build yourself a fantastic spread on it…I wish I had the opportunity…but to many want the BIG DEAL…a sale to wall-mart or developer…the next ED ABLE (there’s a name that was lost for a few years).
With alt fuels the rage…and now I’m seeing bio diesel in this area…its a no brainer…keep the farm…even if your not gonna farm it yourself…rent the acreage.
We have a golden opportunity to keep the rural ness of the county. Let the cities build up a bit if they need more taxes.
A frickin oil well ! !
Go Dagger ! !
I would be double deckin the dirt…..corn stalks 50 feet tall…4 layers deep!
I agree that a small part of planning includes having programmable traffic lights on major roads.
For example, if traffic is going exactly 62 mph southbound on Route 24 when it reaches Ring Factory Road, you can go all the way to the Route 924 intersection near I-95 without stopping! Doesn’t work northbound ’cause the light patterns don’t change for going-home traffic.
Planning is providing infrastructure FIRST and foremost in developed areas, where people are saving our tax dollars (and farmland) by living closer together. It’s cheaper for us taxpayers when schools are near where we live, shorter roads are needed to get us to work and shopping, etc.
In exchange, we deserve convenient parks, senior centers, community centers, etc. because our home doesn’t have the huge yards that rural dwellers have.
Providing these at reasonable cost requires planning.
Cheers for the great content in your resource on Losing Our Rights Is Wrong:
Citizens? Right To Zoning Interpretation Set To Disappear.