The Frederick County Council could give final approval next week to a bill that would limit zoning approvals in election years.

No one spoke at a public hearing on an amended version of the bill on Tuesday night. The bill is similar to a policy used by the Board of Aldermen in the city of Frederick. Amendments introduced last month decrease the window in which the council could not consider such applications from July 1 in an election year to one day after the council’s inauguration.

The bill was put forward by County Executive Jan Gardner (D) as a “good government” measure aimed at preventing the appearance of political pressure and undue influence in zoning decisions during elections and in the lame-duck period after them.

It would have kept the council from making such decisions for nine months — six months before county general elections and three months after.

The council’s amendment, from Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D), shortened the moratorium period to approximately five months.

The bill is scheduled for a final vote next Tuesday.

Affordable housing

The council could also give final approval next Tuesday to a bill that increases the fees developers pay in lieu of building affordable housing.

The new calculation — which takes into consideration the “affordability gap” between average home sales and the purchasing power of households earning 70 percent of the area median income — would increase the fee to $26,500 for the next three years.

Under the bill, a new fee would be calculated triennially.

FCC budget

With no further discussion, the Frederick County Council gave final approval to Frederick Community College’s 2018 budget plan Tuesday afternoon.

The community college’s budget allocation from the county — $16.5 million — was already approved by the council last month, but final approval of the line-item budget came on Tuesday.

The college’s board of trustees unanimously approved the $52.7 million operating and $6.2 million capital improvement budgets for fiscal 2018 plan last month.

Under the budget, tuition will increase for in-county students by $1 per credit. Out-of-county students will pay $262 per credit, a $3 increase. Out-of-state students will see a 1 percent increase, to $355 per credit.

Student activity fees will also increase by $1.

Other actions

The council also voted to issue $10.5 million in economic development bonds on behalf of St. John’s Catholic Prep. There is no cost to the county to issue the economic development bonds, and the county has no obligation to pay them off. The bonds allow the organization to have the benefit of tax-exempt interest rates, but are not reflected in the county’s borrowing limits or credit ratings. Similar bonds have been issued in the past to organizations including Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University.

The council approved eight amendments to the county’s water and sewer plan including reclassifications for proposed hookups at the former Renn Farm property in the city of Frederick, the 406-lot Hamptons West development near Lake Linganore and for a 675-home development in New Market.

Three new bills were introduced:

  • A measure from Council President Bud Otis (unaffiliated) that would allow antique, artisan and craft shops in areas zoned for limited industrial use.
  • A measure from Councilman Billy Shreve (R) that would allow wood recycling — or mulching — companies in general commercial districts as a special exception.
  • A measure from Gardner that would change the membership of the county’s retirement plan committee to require a retiree representative and would not allow more than two employees from the same division to serve on the board at a time.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(1) comment

hankm44

because the rest of us should stop our lives and businesses for your precious elections.

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