After much discussion and multiple amendments, Councilman Steve McKay’s (R) development, rights and responsibilities agreement (DRRA) bill is scheduled for a vote Tuesday.

The bill has changed since McKay introduced it on March 5. Some of those amendments included lowering the minimum number of dwelling units from 1,500 to 900 — except in the case of a mixed-use development, where the figure drops to 600.

Another amendment increased the maximum length of a DRRA to eight years, with the possibility to add on five years through an amendment to the DRRA.

DRRAs are long-term agreements between county officials and developers, and help determine what is expected from each side in terms of enhanced public benefits, zoning rights and other areas.

Council leadership said this week they support McKay’s bill in its current form. County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said she doesn’t agree with the entire bill — including lengthening the term limit from five to eight years.

She added developers should be able to be vested within 10 years, no matter how large they are. Vesting is when there has been some evidence of build-out at a development site, and varies from project to project.

But despite these disagreements, she’ll still probably vote yes on Tuesday, she said.

“I agree with the intent of what he’s trying to do, and I agree with the provisions that have been added through the amendment process,” Keegan-Ayer said.

Michael Blue, however, was concerned about both the number of units and length of term as soon as McKay introduced the bill. Now that those amendments have been added, he supports it.

“I think that vesting is too broad of a term and it can mean different things to different developments,” Blue said about term lengths specifically. “Depending on what the enhanced benefit is, [that] can determine when you’re vested.”

County Executive Jan Gardner (D) sent a letter to the council this week outlining her concerns with the bill.

In it, she said the bill should not go below 1,000 units for a DRRA, because only larger developments can provide “meaningful enhanced public benefits.”

Enhanced public benefits can be either a land transfer to the county, interchange construction, sidewalks, playgrounds or other improvements. McKay’s bill has an amendment that requires either the transfer of land before the end of the DRRA, or a financial guarantee that the developer will be able to complete a more complex benefit, such as an interchange.

Gardner supported that latter amendment in her letter. But in an interview earlier this week, she said she didn’t support lengthening the terms of DRRAs from five to eight years.

“It should not take anyone over five years to vest,” Gardner said. “Because all they have to do, under Maryland law to vest, is to put in a footer.”

But she added that she won’t veto the bill, if it passes Tuesday.

“Part of it is, I expect there to be compromise and for everybody to not get everything that they want,” Gardner said. “And it’s gone through a public process, so you kind of feel that bill, at the end of that day, represents that process.”

Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said he still doesn’t support the bill as written, and will vote no — and he suspects he might be the only one.

“I still don’t fundamentally agree with the idea we should limit our ability to contract as a county. ... There’s no real benefit in me voting against it, other than the fact I philosophically don’t agree with it,” Dacey said.

The council is scheduled to vote on the bill at its meeting Tuesday, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Winchester Hall.

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.

(1) comment

des21

Go Steve go! This is exactly why I contributed to your campaign and voted for you. my sincere thanks.

And keep trying to tweak the process. The amendments you suggest may get voted down along party lines but keeping a lid on ever growing budgetary increases (opposition to which is always presented as "budget cuts" bizarrely) and slowing the pace of growth in spending is just as important as slowing the pace in growth in housing. You are the responsible steward I thought you would be. Thanks again.

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