Monrovia Protest #2

This aerial photo taken in March 2015 shows part of the area for the proposed Monrovia Town Center. At the left is Md. 75, and at the top right is Md. 80.

A judge has ordered Frederick County to reconsider its agreements with the developers of the Monrovia Town Center.

The opinion, filed Tuesday, vacates the agreement between the former Board of County Commissioners and the developers, 75-80 Properties, Payne Investments and Monrovia Town Center PUD, that paved the way for the 1,250-home development.

The order came in the wake of a lawsuit from land-use activists Residents Against Landsdale Expansion that challenged the previous Board of County Commissioners’ decision to enter the agreement. The group argued that a letter written by transportation advocates Frederick Area Committee for Transportation, which supported the project, tainted the approval process because Paul Smith, a county commissioner at the time, helped write the letter as the board’s liaison to the group.

Circuit Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. agreed in his written opinion, citing a section of the state code that requires officials to disclose private communications about pending applications to the chief administrative officer.

Since Smith did not disclose his comments on the Town Center at the April 14, 2014, FACT meeting, and his remarks were incorporated into a committee letter to the Board of County Commissioners, the judge found “a breach of ethics that cannot be overlooked.”

Steve McKay, president of RALE, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“This really was a community win yesterday on this decision,” he said Wednesday, noting the support his group had received over the past four years at public hearings on the town center.

The court had yet to consider some of RALE’s more substantive concerns, he added. The judge’s decision focused on ethics, but RALE also objected to what it characterized as a lack of public record on transportation issues surrounding the project.

“The FACT letter was a direct expression of [the board’s] hubris and it was their undoing,” McKay said.

Deborah Israel, an attorney for the Monrovia Town Center developers, responded theatrically in oral arguments by showing Nicklas five boxes of traffic impact documents and then holding up the single-page FACT letter.

Nicklas found that, contrary to the developers’ arguments, the letter could have influenced the board’s vote and he was particularly concerned by the timing of it. He noted that then-Commissioner Blaine Young read the letter into the record just a week before the Monrovia Town Center got its final approval.

“The lack of attribution in the FACT letter was intended to deceive not only members of the Board, but the public at large,” Nicklas wrote.

While Young and former Commissioner David Gray submitted affidavits that the letter didn’t affect their vote, that did not make up for the deception, Nicklas concluded.

Smith’s ethics violation, Nicklas continued, invalidated the Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreement with the county, meaning the current County Council will be allowed to reconsider it, essentially starting “from scratch.”

County Executive Jan Gardner said she appreciated and respected the judge’s decision, which was the outcome the county had hoped for.

The prior government failed to follow its own rules of ethics, Gardner said, and restarting the process will offer the chance to ensure transparent government processes.

Israel argued that the agreements with the county should be upheld because, among other issues, Gardner proposed a draft bill limiting DRRAs to developments with more than 1,500 homes. That, Israel said in oral argument last month, would preclude the Monrovia Town Center from entering such an agreement and was evidence that the current county government was looking to kill the project using the courts.

Israel did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Gardner said her bill on DRRAs would go to workshop next week and may undergo changes. She added that the bill was not relevant to the issues before Nicklas.

The Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement keeps the current government from changing the policies of previous boards. The agreements are designed to offer developers stability by locking in zoning policy as well as road and school fees.

RALE has fought the development out of concerns that it will lead to traffic jams and crowded schools.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiLoos.

(74) comments

i70corridor

A win is a win and should be celebrated for sure. Unfortunately, albeit a short win will come the restructuring of this project and MTC will come to fruition. Be prepared for a small(not by much) MTC with more monies going to the county for "projects". Plans will be reworked and the process will be open clad next time, you can rest assured.

DisabledFrederickVeteran

In Washington the GOP lied and claimed they wanted to drain the swamp instead they brought in truckloads of greedy Wall Street alligators we can't make a similar mistake in FC so vote democrat and persevere and protect Frederick County from the development gators.

theodorakroll

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Steve McKay, and Pam, for all your hard work, knowledge, persistence, and passion. Thank you to all of the wonderful people of Monrovia for daring to stand up and speak at meetings, and for standing up for your rights. What a great group! Thank you to Jan Gardner and County staff, too! See what we can do together? Pat yourselves on the back, you deserve it. Thank you!

coconut

an overused word but not in this case, AWESOME !

jerseygrl42

This is outstanding and what a POOR excuse for a lawyer Smitty is ; that whole bunch are losers

gorillagusto

Boy, Paul Smith sure screwed things up for his team. Who in blazes would hire that guy now?

DickD

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_ethics
"Every state in the United States has a regulatory body (usually called a state bar association) that polices lawyer conduct. When lawyers are licensed to practice in a state, those lawyers subject themselves to this authority. Overall responsibility often lies with the highest court in a state (such as state supreme court). The state bar associations, often in consultation with the court, adopt a set of rules that set forth the applicable ethical duties. As of 2013, 48 states have adopted a version of the American Bar Association's model rules. California is the only state that has not adopted either—instead these states have written their own rules from scratch. There was once some debate over whether state ethical rules apply to federal prosecutors. The Department of Justice has held differing opinions through different administrations, with the Thornburgh Memo suggesting these rules do not apply, and the Reno Rules asserting that they do apply. Now, 28 U.S.C. § 530B provides that government attorneys are subject to the state ethics laws in the state in which they practice.

Lawyers who fail to comply with local rules of ethics may be subjected to discipline ranging from private (non-public) reprimand to disbarment.

armillary

DickD, here's what you're referring to in Maryland:
http://www.courts.state.md.us/attygrievance/index.html

elymus43

Don't think that the developers and builders will give up this easy. We need Lennie Thompson as county executive to get things done.

DickD

I like Lenny, but giving our CE back to a Republican is not anything I want.

des21

Just out of curiosity I went and googled Paul Smith. Thankfully he's no longer in public service and, even though his site has a sub-category called "Issues", his last post was from 2014. Whew! Be thankful for small mercies.

DickD

It bothers me that so many lawyers - never mind the political party, are more than willing to be dishonest to get their way. Don't they teach ethics in the legal profession? Never mind, I just checked Wikipedia and the answer is they are taught and can be disciplined. I will post it later.

Tigerzord

I recall one of the lawyers saying he attended the "community meeting" in the little building at the drag strip - also known as a shed.

AstuteBusinessWoman

Me too. He appeared to be very squirming in his seat upon questioning on the details.... It was so ridiculous it made us laugh....

des21

They sure do teach ethics and many take it quite seriously- Particularly those who are public servants! I guess, like with any profession, the "bad" ones get the headlines and the average or good ones kind of get overlooked. A lawyer doing good, ethical work is not news. I wouldn't hire this guy that's for sure.

I think a group think mentality can take over whereby you have otherwise decent people do stupid, wrong things. Given the bully-type personality of Blaine (sp?), Kirby and the little one, Billy, maybe the Paul Smiths and David Grays of the world just get carried along. Maybe that is what is happening to Tony C too but the fact that he is in the building trade and stands to benefit from all this development make me question that. i don't know but i think most people are more good than bad.

armillary

The Young board's decision remanded
Commissioner Smith has been branded
his ethics berated
this case is vacated
the bad guys ride home empty-handed.

Tigerzord

[thumbup][thumbup]

FrederickFan

armillary [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

valerie_dale

[thumbup]

Moon otter

I hope you save all these and publish them..[thumbup]

armillary

Thank you! By my count that was number 947.

DickD

My count was 1005, thanks for the correction.[wink]

KellyAlzan

FNP - why are you removing my posts regarding the developer potentially taking revenge against those that brought this down?

A huge sum of money has already been spent. And a potential to make a huge amount of money is gone with the wind.

This literally is what Dateline episodes are made of.

We have county commissioners that we're paid large sums of money in one fashion or another to push this developement through. And we have a group of people that successfully brought this venture crashing down.

Those whom had a hand in this really and truly need to be cognizant of potential retaliations. They need to be aware of their surroundings.

Yes, this is a great victory for Frederick county.

But it's not for a developer. We live in a very crazed society.

chesapeakecountry

I don't why everyone is excited. The current board is not better than the last one. Just a few weeks ago they voted to allow the developer of Urbana to covert land reserved for industrial/commercial use (jobs) to residential with 700 new homes. All for the sole reason of lining the developer's pockets. So much for the promise of Urbana being a place where you could live, shop, and work in one location. Sadly Monrovia will end up in much the same manner.

KellyAlzan

And Jan Gardner supports the downtown hotel. A deal that has been manipulated by the city leaders and the Youngs just the same as the county nursing home sale.

I detest delaughter, schreeves, and balane. But gardners support of the hotel is unequivocally hypocritical

FrederickFan

Nope. As you know, the County is planning only to contribute to a downtown parking garage, as it has contributed in the past to all downtown parking garages. When you lie and make things up in these forums, it destroys your credibility.

KellyAlzan

What you write is your opinion.

FrederickFan

Except that in this case, my opinion is consistent with all the public information that has been shared (published, presented, etc.) by the City and County.

Hayduke2

And Kelly, what you write is your opinion so what gives it more value?

KellyAlzan

Hi hay, you little cutie [love][love][love]

DickD

Hay, why couldn't Kelly have sent you love and kisses? Or was that her intent? [lol]

threecents

Doesn't almost everyone in city and county government support the downtown hotel/conference center - including those running for Alderman and Mayor?

des21

Urbana- the horse has left the barn. (And I believe Jan was the head honcho when that development began ironically but that's before my time in Fred Co. Couldn't care less now.) It is what it is and people moving there know what it is. I'm interested in maintaining the quality of life in Monrovia and that's why I've supported and will continue to support RALE. Developers can kiss my behind Kelly.

Monrovia? Horse still in barn. Big difference.

Tigerzord

Let's hope we can keep the horse in the barn, lol

chesapeakecountry

No they switched horses in mid stream. Promised and proposed one thing and back-stabbed the citizens of Frederick county by giving the developer everything he wanted.

Comment deleted.
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jsklinelga

kellyAlzan

I am not sure who you are but this is an extremely bizarre comment. Coupled with your previous comment about a dead commissioner they paint a very dark and threatening picture. Are they borderline libelous. I am surprised the FNP has not elected to delete the comments.

FrederickFan

Kudos to County Executive Jan Gardner and RALE. This is a spectacular victory for Frederick County Taxpayers. Rale filed the suit, and when Jan Gardner beat Blaine Young in the race for County Executive, Frederick County Government suddenly went from betraying its taxpayers to defending its taxpayers.

Thewheelone

[thumbup] FrederickFan

armillary

FrederickFan [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Hayduke2

Frederickfan - nailed it! [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Congratulations guys for fighting the hard fight and winning.

rquerry

Wow - this is great news! Congratulations to everyone who fought so hard for this and never gave up.

DickD

Wow, a complete and clear victory! Congratulations, Steve, and thank you from all of us concerned citizens. Even though it did not personally effect me, I was upset that the BOCC and the Blaine gang thought they could get away with this.

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Preserve Frederick County vote Democratic.

mikec

So true.

eastmoonrabbit

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

matts853

If the developers want justice they shouldn't waste time appealing this. Instead they should sue Smith, Young, Shmeve, Deluded, and their cabal of attorneys for de RALEng (sorry couldn't resist) this deal. Karma is a you know what.

Can't wait for D2 developer representative Chmelik to cry foul. He won't win reelection.

Matt Seubert

des21

From your mouth to God's ear. Its still a republican district so someone has to challenge him in the primary to get him out. Otherwise people will vote party line.

Tigerzord

YAY!!!! When we work together for the common good of the people, anything can be done! Thank you to ALL the residents who showed up time and time again!! Putting in hours of thought, labor, testifying, rallying, sharing, donating and so on and so on!! I love where we live and I love the people in it!! Monrovia and the surrounding area is that special spot between Urbana and Damascus ;-)

But it is not a time to stop working for the good of the community! We must be vigilant to watch for those who will raise their ugly head again in selfishness. 2018 will be an important election for sure to keep good people in County Government!
REMEMBER, it will not be a Democratic vs. Republican thing, so pay attention!

BstD59

Take that, Blaine Young, Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve, and Paul Smith.

Tigerzord

[thumbup][thumbup] Don't forget Chmelik who continues to back developers

stevemckay

Nearly 4 years ago today, over 300 showed up at Winchester Hall for the first public hearing on MTC. We filled three rooms. People were turned away at the door. This was and is a reflection of the public conclusion that this was and is a bad idea. That public opposition has continued to fuel this long, hard fight. Thank you to everyone that attended hearings, wrote letters, supported RALE, and made your voices heard. This is a community win!

jsklinelga

Wow! Wow! Wow! Great job Steve Mckay and all others who were involved. It is very appropriate to quote Dylan: "The times they are a changing."

KellyAlzan

I dunno that's a good quote.

Times haven't changed.

Really, all that transpired is the bad people were stopped from doing bad things.

DickD

But you were the spearhead, Steve. Great job, congratulations.

Hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Republicans are beholden to business first and the people last this is why a significant amount of American households earning under 450k a year will pay higher taxes under the GOP tax reform outline. Not being able to write off SALT will devestate Marylanders household budgets we must send a clear message by voting all republicans out of public office in 2018 to preserve our families economic survival.

chesapeakecountry

LOL.. Your nuts.

DisabledFrederickVeteran

The developers need KD as a tool to replace BY to restart the project.

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Another example of why you can never really trust republicans to act in the best interest of the voters.

des21

Sigh, SMH.

DickD

Dave, I understant! [lol]

KellyAlzan

How come Jan Gardner can see though this dirty deal, but she can't see through the dirtiness of the proposed downtown hotel??????

FrederickFan

Because there is no dirty Frederick County money in that project. Just help from the County toward a new City parking garage, just like all the other City parking garages.

des21

Outstanding job Steve and thank you to the Council Democrats, Mr. Otis and Mrs. Gardner. You all have my never-ending thanks as Lord knows our local representative sadly puts his membership in the 3 Stooges known as the Local Elected Republicans above his constituents' interests (that's you Tony Chmelik just in case you are as dense as you seem). I will continue to support RALE financially as I'm sure there will be appeals. Mrs. Gardner you have my vote and someone, almost anyone, please challenge Tony for District 2. He is, to put it mildly, not well liked. I would if i could.

DickD

Dave, I totally agree with you and thought you were considering running against Tony. Does; "I would if I could." mean you will not?

des21

Yes unfortunately. I've got two kids under 8 and a wife who works 60 hours a week and takes graduate courses. I'm Mr.Mom when i get home and, while I enjoy it,it makes running for office unrealistic. I'm hoping a sane Republican steps up.

duffy5x

Sane republican is an oxymoron.

Nicki

Hooray!!!

shiftless88

Congratulations, Mr McKay!

Hayduke2

Thanks to RALE and all the residents of the county who spoke up, refused to give in to bullying tactics like a frivolous lawsuit, and monied interests. Regardless of the future of this proposed development, here's to the residents and I hope they will continue to make their voices heard.

Thewheelone

[thumbup], Hay!

KellyAlzan

First to comment!

Good job rale!

des21

Did you actually right "first to comment" in bold? You're too funny[beam]

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