July 3rd, 2008

we can't teach what we don't know
  • uu_mom

County Council Asks High Court to Take Away Citizen Rights

The following was forwarded to me by an active, caring citizen, though I couldn't fine it on the web site:

The Council is trying to take away our right to appeal zoning decisions unless we can actually “see” the property from our own — see the Gazette letter to the editor below. We need to let the Council know this is not acceptable:

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County Council Asks High Court to Take Away Citizen Rights to help Developer Contributors: The Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a case in which the County Council asks the Court to take away the rights of citizens and civic associations to file appeals in zoning cases. Gosain v. County Council (No. 26 Sept. Term 2008).

In 1994, the General Assembly gave broadened appeal rights to citizens and civic associations so that they could appeal the County Council's abusive zoning decisions that favor their developer campaign contributors. The 1994 law removed a requirement that an appellant had to be "aggrieved" in order to have "standing" to file an appeal. Aggrievement means that to appeal, you have to be able to literally SEE the property being developed or rezoned from your property. Courts have been very tough on citizens about being aggrieved, and abusive zoning decisions often could not be appealed.

The "aggrievement" requirement was removed in 1994, so that the political deals between the developers and the County Council would have to stand up in court. Developers and the County Council have bristled about this law for years, and the Council's lawyer has tried many times to get it overturned in court but has failed. Earlier this year, the developers and the Council got Delegate Joe Vallario to sponsor a bill (HB 927 (PG/MC 119-08)) to do the same thing - take away citizens rights to appeal zoning decisions by putting back the requirement that citizens be "aggrieved" in order to have "standing".

Vocal citizen opposition killed HB 927. Now, the Council has gotten Maryland's highest Court to hear its argument to strip citizens of their hard won rights.

Write your Council member and demand to know why they want to take away your rights. Write and demand honest government. And, tell your neighbors what their Council member is up to and get them to write or call.

We should also let our Delegates know that we appreciate their protecting our rights by killing HB 927 in the last session and alert them to the fact that the Council is trying to bypass the Delegate’s decision by going to the Court of Appeals.
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