Saturday, December 13, 2008


Wordbones recently blogged about the referendum drive to overturn the council decision on CB 58. Although I think the council made the right decision on CB 58 and I would not sign my name in support of a referendum, I do think that increased citizen participation could be a good thing. The time to bring decisions to the citizens, however, is not after their representatives have already decided the matter (at least not for a piss-ant sized zoning matter like CB 58).

I think the optimal solution to the recurring problem of certain people feeling ignored by the decisions of their representatives is to increase public representation. Instead of a winner take all election every few years, where one council person from each of the 5 districts takes all the votes, have more council people for each district. The ideal solution would look something like this.


Anonymous said...

The problem with the cb58/referendum/zra/grocery change
is not that some people are ignored. The problem started with the developer's chosen method of change - ZRA - which excludes notification of residents and makes sweeping countywide changes. That's what a ZRA does.

People in Columbia are just now coming to terms with this insane way of changing zoning because they have not had to deal with county law in the past.

It takes a while for this to really sink in. A ZRA is a countywide zoning change with no targeted resident taxpayer notification. If you don't read the small print in the back of local papers each week, you're at risk of being affected.

Freemarket said...

It is disingenuous in my opinion to call CB 58 a "sweeping county wide change". It only applies county wide in the sense that it would apply to other planned golf course communities in the county. That is not an immaterial fact.

Anonymous said...

That is what a ZRA does. But more importantly is the effect this change will have on the surrounding communities. It's a huge issue and could have a serious and permanent impact. Still, residents were never notified.

It was a deeply divisive issue inside the Turf Valley community, and now the other communities are weighing in.

There was no representation or sensibility in this decision by the council. All that was asked of the council was time but they didn't represent residents and so this referendum has now been initiated.

People want to self-determine,and in Democracy it is our right - regardless how it has malfunctioned in the past.

How any citizen can demand that others NOT be informed, or a decision like this NOT be circulated fairly is really disturbing.

Anonymous said...

OMG!! Someone shake that guy over at Columbia Now.

He's completely swithed around on his post. The referendum originated with Turf Valley citizens and quit bringing HCCA into this - THEY HAVEN'T TAKEN A POSITION.

Seriously, did he get that stuff from wordbones' blog? Come on!

Freemarket said...

Anon 12:54- why on Earth would you post that on my blog and not his? Are you too skeered?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's it. I'm scared. You're still the same freemarket of yore wherein you make sense at a steady pace and then BOOM. Lost you to the tangential.

Other blog has some goofy set up that makes commenters jump through hoops. I went through three hoops and gave up.

Freemarket said...

Well, at least I am not technologically inept.

Ryan Ballengee said...

It's my blog over at CN. I can respond over here, though. (For the record, my blog uses the same comment system as this one. It's all under the Blogger umbrella.) I clarified things on the blog to reiterate that HCCA doesn't have a public position on the issue. That doesn't mean, though, that members of HCCA or surrogates thereof haven't clearly taken positions. It is those people to which I am referring.

Freemarket said...

Actually, your clarifications are unnecessary. HCCA announced their support of the referendum on their listserv, and have even sponsored a new listserv to talk solely about CB58.

Anonymous said...

If people have a problem with ZRAs, lobby to change that process. Don't target 1 out of about 100 ZRAs that are filed each year and hold up a community moving forward who wants a grocery store.

This referendum push will probably have the reverse of the desired effect. Politicians will be less transparent and open because they will see that citizens are increasingly more divisive and unwilling to be objective and reasonable.

Why would a politician take a tough stance that is the right thing to do if disgruntled obstructionists will partner with grocery store unions and anti growth people around the country (yes people from PA and elsewhere where brought in on this referendum push)? It’s easier to go with the wind. That serve none of us well and probably hurts future generations who will have to live with the growth and development decisions we make today.

In this representative form of government, we elect people to make decisions we think are best. Out of the thousands of decisions they make each year, we may not agree with a dozen or so. Throwing the gauntlet down on this CB 58 when there has been so much more good will attempted such as the PELU, more information posted on the website, electronic letters and correspondence and many other measures to increase openness, will backfire! You will get defensive, private politicians instead of the open public servants we elected in 2006!

Ryan Ballengee said...

Thanks for the heads up, FM. Hadn't checked out the listserv in recent days.

And here here to Anon 8:38a. Glad to hear someone feeling the same way I do.

Anonymous said...

The PELU? You're kidding. It was half stacked with developer's and their attorneys. Public Engagement? Stop, please.

And the method of retreating on our rights instead of insisting on them is backward.

Also, since the community is divided, the best thing the council could have done was to put it to referendum themselves.

And lastly, time to notify residents is seldom an unreasonable request.

There's no argument that can outweigh the rights of residents to self-determine.

Anonymous said...

And FM, you know that decision was made after that was posted.

Ryan Ballengee said...

I had a heads up on that issue before HCCA decided on its official position and changed the post accordingly to reflect the then-unofficial stance of the organizations. Was glad to fix it to make it crystal clear.

Anonymous said...

Some observations....

- Generally, 10% of petition signatures are routinely invalidated. That being said, you can't be too careful when dozens of people are collecting signatures and you don't know what quality control standards to expect from each one. You either meet the requirement within 60 days or you're out of luck.

- Developer resources, influence and legal tactics are generally successful in commanding the political and legal arenas. The ONE aspect of the zoning and growth process where they can't exert disproportionate control is when issues are placed on the ballot. This is the one vehicle where citizens have considerable influence and power.

- A few of the reasons that citizens from across the county have been motivated to take CB58 to referendum are:

1. The attempt to rezone a single property for the express benefit of one owner is clearly "spot zoning" which the Council should have referred to the Zoning Board. Unfortunately, development attorneys have learned that it's much easier to push a ZRA text amendment through the Planning Board/Council than it is to meet the legal "change & mistake" burden required by the ZB.

2. As a text amendment, there was absolutely NO requirement to notify neighborhoods bordering the one affected property. Furthermore, the ZRA was mistitled by DPZ, without any reference to Turf Valley or the property owner.

3. The Turf Valley developers chose not to submit the complete ZRA application (from DPZ's website). They chose not to report financial contributions to 5 out of 6 elected county officials as well as the DEPUTY DIRECTOR of DPZ !!!

4. CB58 represents a significant change to the Route 40 business corridor. Rather than being reviewed in the context of a Route 40 Master Plan, utilizing current retail market demand and traffic information, the Bill was approved under the misnomer of being a local neighborhood grocery store that was welcomed by the majority of areas residents and businesses (both of which are egregious misrepresentations).

The overwhelming concensus of citizens, taxpayers and registered voters is that the vast majority of people support well planned and managed development that is supported by forward funded infrastructure improvements and public amenities.

So much for being an obstructionist ;-)...

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:52, compelling points. Thanks for the clarification.