Despite opposition from the sheriff and leadership, the Frederick County Council approved legislation Tuesday night aimed at preventing intentional balloon releases.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Kai Hagen (D), was modeled after a similar bill approved by the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners earlier this year. Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and Vice President Michael Blue (R) were the two “no” votes in a 5-2 tally.

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told council members near the start of the meeting that Hagen’s proposal was unenforceable and, if it passed, it would make the county look like a “laughing stock.”

“That’s the biggest hurdle in this case, how we prove that someone knowingly or intentionally releases the balloon,” Jenkins said regarding the ability to enforce it. “Based on my experiences in law enforcement, orders like this would be impossible to prove in a timely manner.”

He and Hagen debated the effectiveness of the law for a brief period. At one point, Hagen asked if Jenkins would have called the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners a “laughing stock,” noting those commissioners were all Republicans.

“I would have made the same argument in Queen Anne’s County … I can just tell you what I’ve heard in the public,” Jenkins (R) responded.

Those who supported the bill noted that although it would be difficult to enforce, it should help decrease overall litter in the county, and was a good educational tool.

That included Councilman Steve McKay (R), who said he “wrestled with” making a decision on Hagen’s proposal.

“I do think a law on the books will influence behavior … and I do completely support the argument that it is littering,” McKay said.

Councilman Jerry Donald (D) agreed.

“I understand it’s not going to change everyone’s habits … but we’re going to try and educate people on massive balloon releases and hopefully stop them from happening,” Donald said.

Keegan-Ayer, however, said she was in the “bizarre” position of siding with Jenkins, someone she typically disagrees with. She noted it would put county staff and the sheriff’s office “in a bind” regarding enforceability.

“The problem I have with this is there is going to be no evidence the violation occurred from the person who perpetuated the crime, because the evidence floats away,” she said.

Hagen, however, contended that mass balloon releases would be easy to spot and evidence would be easy to track, from balloon sales to overall plans for major institutions.

After the vote, he thanked the council for its support. His bill would assess up to a $250 fine on people or organizations who intentionally release balloons, and he stated multiple times the purpose was for mass balloon releases, not single balloons let go into the air.

Council passes change to allow scuba facility

In a 7-0 vote, County Council members passed a change to the county’s mineral mining zoning code, allowing for a scuba facility and related attractions.

Council Vice President Michael Blue (R) had been working on the change for months with county staff, along with Brad Hill, owner of a mining quarry east of Woodsboro, and Matt Skogebo, a scuba instructor near Baltimore. They both were in attendance for Tuesday’s vote, and are working on a proposal in a spring-fed body of water on Hill’s property.

Council members thanked Blue for his work, and Blue thanked county staff for their help to craft the bill.

“You think you have all the answers and then you make a turn, and you have a million more questions … it’s been a long time coming,” Blue said.

The bill allows the project near Woodsboro, estimated at up to $30 million, to proceed. The legislation requires that “any building, structure or area of land and water that is used for scuba diving education and recreation” and also requires the site:

  • Uses an open-pit mine fed by a natural spring.
  • Has setbacks of 50 feet from all property lines, and 300 feet from all mineral mining, extraction, processing and hauling equipment.
  • Receives approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment prior to site plan approval.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(48) comments

mrnatural1

On Dec 18, 2019 @ 3:57pm, kaihagen wrote:

"It will be different, in no small part because most of the larger releases are planned and done by institutions, sporting venues, businesses, etc...and most of them will simply stop doing this."

~~~

I thought that was worth re-posting.

bkeepr

Tthese questions about that post were not addressed, so I'll re-post them, too:

"Interesting opinion, thank you. What data have you collected about this? How many, and what size institutional/sporting/business releases have there been in the county historically, and what is the local trend?"

Without supporting data, it is just another opinion.

CharlesNelsonReilly

Kai Hagen.... doing God's work on the CC. What's his next bill going to be, composting toilets in all public facilities?

Jerry Donald - “I understand it’s not going to change everyone’s habits … but we’re going to try and educate people on massive balloon releases and hopefully stop them from happening,”

Translation: You taxpayers are too stupid to understand any of this, we're highly intelligent, therefore we must laws and then ram them down your throat.

public-redux

God cares about balloons?

awteam2000

‘O’ word’, Taxpayers?

Really? Is there some kind of balloon fetish in Frederick County that I don’t know about?

Do we need to add a ‘Police Ballon Squad’ at tax payer expense? “Stop, that’s in violation of “balloon control” ”.

Seriously?

I think with grand openings of new business and grand celebrations in general, they’ll abide by the new regulation.

No big deal.

But I would enjoy seeing Jenkins running down the street chasing after balloons.😂😂😂

KellyAlzan

A lot of comments referencing littering. I don’t believe anyone is for littering. I feel the majority dislike those who litter.

The backlash is because this is basically an unenforceable law. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on. If we’re standing outside the Old FNP building and we release balloons, and an officer is nearby and happens to notice the balloons rising up through the air, the officer would have to prove specifically who let the balloons go. Nearly impossible. Unless he sees with his own two eyes, or there’s video. This is what we in the legal world call “unenforceable”.

Its a poor use of time. Bigger fish to fry.

seanjames

almost any litter law is hard to enforce. if i throw trash out of my car window as i'm driving down the road, it's highly unlikely a cop will witness it and i'll probably get away with it (and some people still do, as evidenced by most roadsides). but since those laws started being passed in the 70s there is zero question whether littering has greatly decreased. it's not because people are scared of getting caught, it's because littering is socially frowned upon now and therefore most people won't do it. but i think a lot of people have no idea how bad it is for wildlife to release balloons, and laws like this will help get that out there and make people not *want* to do it anymore. there's zero downside to this law, as you can see by the arguments against it. "it's unenforceable!" -- again, not the point but even if you believe this, then so what? so there's no difference between having the law and not having it. big whoop. "we'll be a laughingstock!" -- the fact that an actual elected law enforcement officer used this as a justification against a law, in itself, makes this county a laughingstock for voting for the moron

matts853

We shouldn’t be wasting helium on balloons in the first place....it’s used for medical purposes.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/06/21/helium-shortage-why-the-worlds-supply-is-drying-up.html

themightyjoedanger

I might argue that our Sheriff riding to work in an armored vehicle painted olive drab as he makes his way through the thick jungle environment of East Frederick is better laughingstock material, let alone every time he gets in front of a camera.

LibertyLost

The word "intentional" appears to fall into the "plausible deniability" areas of law. "They slipped." Could be the most efffective defense against the charge of "Intentional Release of Balloons" under the Maryland Littering Statutes. Proving conspiracy to commit "Intentional Balloon Release" would be a milestone in juris prudence. Or is finger pointing the benchmark of guilt? What's next on the climate legislation list? Visual dross perhaps? Billboards? Brightly lit fossil fuel stations? How about those real estate agent law signs? Definitely political lawn flare. But With Intentional Release of Balloons Law we can be pretty sure there will be no such fanfare at the opening of the highway toll booths, or that downtown whatcha ma call it.

Boyce Rensberger

What Jenkins and the trumpies on this page don't understand is that most people are law abiding.

bkeepr

I'm not a trumpie, and I don't agree with your name-calling, but I will point out that about half of the drivers I see on the road in Maryland are texting, hand-held phoning, or otherwise "distracted driving," all in violation of laws. Speeding? Same. Lots of others. Americans are scoff-laws at heart, and this'll be no different.

kaihagen

It will be different, in no small part because most of the larger releases are planned and done by institutions, sporting venues, businesses, etc...and most of them will simply stop doing this.

bkeepr

Interesting opinion, thank you. What data have you collected about this? How many, and what size institutional/sporting/business releases have there been in the county historically, and what is the local trend?

CharlesNelsonReilly

Even the brave Comrades in your "Resistance", Boyce? "Trumpies".... yes, I see you lefties have learned your lesson. People in middle America loved being talked down to and mocked by coastal elitists like you. Please keep doing it, pretty please.

hayduke2

Talked down too? No just called out when stupid stuff and demeaning references are posted.

Alice Jones

A lot of you seem in serious need of a hobby. Such vitriol over something that ultimately is a good thing and can only help. I had no idea mass balloon releases were important to county residents. Homelessness, dope, crime? Nope. Balloons. Sad but predictable. Relax, folks, take a deep breath; you’ll live a little longer.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

des21

I think we all should be glad that we live in a community where such issues take up the time of our elected officials. I keep whistling the theme to the Andy Griffith Show.[beam]

public-redux

And the commenters!

Lemmy

Thankfully we can rest easy now that this huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

EABiker

So no mass balloon releases; does that mean it's OK to release them one at a time?

jloo

I've lived in Frederick for four years and the mass balloon releases were snarling traffic on Route 15 north and south as well as I270 north and I70 west especially on the weekends. I am certain this new law (although unenforceable) will impact the behavior of drivers from "rubber necking" to watch the mass balloon releases. Thank God we have a proactive council to make our lives better and limit the litter!!

DickD

The balloon release is a joke, they will never be able to enforce it. ..Police will just laugh about it

KellyAlzan

Trumpkins will be hiding in the bushes at the churches to catch the balloon bandits after the weddings LOL

shiftless88

There are other laws that are difficult to enforce but having them on the books makes a statement. People who would normally not litter don't think anything of releasing a bunch of balloons into the sky and this is to get them to think twice.

KellyAlzan

In 24 hours no one will remember.

Lost cause.

Thanks again Kirbie for bringing the libs to this great county!

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed shiftless. While it may be futile to enforce on those that don't give a crap anyway, those that do care will not do it. Just like it is illegal to throw your McDonalds bag out your window, or the empty beer bottles, or anything else we see alongside the road. Most people won't do it, but there are pigs amongst us.

hayduke2

Dick - so are the "no littering" laws but does that mean they shouldn't be a goal. If witnessed and police laugh at it, then I believe the problem lies with the police. It is an education piece and one that should make folks more aware that they are simply littering and endangering wildlife.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup] hay!

DickD

Police have a very difficult job. They not likely to care about baloons. Should we litter, no, but don't you think anyone brought up properly will not litter and just how many useless laws do you want.

Reader1954

the only way the balloon ban will work is by people being aware of the law and hopefully coming up with something else to do instead.

DickD

Why would they want to do something else?

hayduke2

Simple - it is the right thing to do.

cleanrunoff

Yet another example of busybody liberal snowflakes assault on the single use plastic and rubber industry. It has been demonstrated that the materials used in the manufacture, sale and transport of balloons is actually beneficial to the environment, providing nesting material and food supplements during lean times to the wild critters. We really need more balloons in the air, not less. Not to mention the loss of jobs, the hungry children and economically injured families that depend on the manufacture and release of helium balloons- I guess more families needing assistance is the end game for a certain portion of the political class.

KellyAlzan

Agreed. We have Kirbie and Ba’lane to thank for this. Rubber stamping approval for every housing development that came across their desks. It’s bringing the liberals in like flies. WTG Kirbie and Ba’lane.

hayduke2

Kelly - some folks post "sarcastic comments" - you should try to recognize that writing style.

KellyAlzan

Why?

Maybe you should recognize I’m working a different angle.

public-redux

"We really need more balloons in the air, not less.<\b>"

That should be "fewer".

shiftless88

So you are calling the Republican Commissioners from Queen Anne County

"busybody liberal snowflakes"? Interesting.

mrnatural1

[beam] clean.

KellyAlzan

Can’t believe Steve McKay voted in approval of a non enforceable law.

For a law to work, one has to be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. To cite someone for launching these balloons, a police officer would literally have to be standing right there amongst the crowd. Think people.

This liberal crap, we can thank Kirbie Delaughter and Ba’lane Young for, they dinner stamped approval of new housing developments bringing an influx of liberals into every new house built. Thanks Kirbie and Ba’lane - see what you done?

KellyAlzan

Rubber stamped. Not dinner stamped

DickD

There's a silver lining in every cloud, Kelly m[beam]

shiftless88

I personally have seen a number of pictures/videos of people releasing balloons on FB and IG. There ya go.

KellyAlzan

Shift - report them at once!!

KMRD1

I’m coming back to Maryland and going up to Catoctin Hollow Road and release balloons, but I’ll call Chuck first so he can meet me there and I’ll pay him the $250 just to do it.

Comment deleted.
Alice Jones

[thumbup][thumbup]

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