Whipping out their red pens, 50 Glen Burnie residents got into a down-and-dirty debate over proper grammar Tuesday night as they studied revised bylaws for their civic association.
The questions flew harder and faster than in a freshman seminar. One elderly man played the stern professor, standing in front of a microphone and loudly criticizing each mistake.
When the discussion threatened to bog down in line-by-line arguments, however, several annoyed residents put on their coats and left. The remaining residents overrode "the professor" and voted to approve the new set of bylaws.
"We do have to clean up the grammar," admitted Charles Ayres Jr., who headed the four-member committee that rewrote the Glen Burnie Improvement Association's bylaws. He suggested polishing up the document in the next months.
Most of the hotly debated grammatical problems stemmed from changing the formal language in the 1988 bylaws. By replacing such gender-specific pronouns as "he" and "she" with the plural form, the committee ended up with non-conforming sentences.
Grammar aside, at least nine significant changes were included.
One revision opens membership to all Glen Burnie residents once they turn 18, instead of 21. Ayres pointed out that 18 is the legal age for nearly every other activity, except drinking.
"If they can vote and fight, they should be able to join," he said.
The revised version of the bylaws also calls for dividing the budget into three separate sections. A balanced-budget provision stipulates that the amount set aside for running the association and for contributions to charities "may not exceed net profits." But capital expenses aren't included under that provision.
Other changes include: creating a new audit committee to review expenses before hiring an outside consultant; outlining a procedure for rescheduling meetings that must be canceled due to heavy rains or snowstorms; and setting guidelines for amending proposals.
Several residents praised the revised bylaws, saying the document was clearer than the "little red book," the nickname for the 1988 copy.
"I found these bylaws much easier to follow than the little red book," said Barbara Turner, who chairs the education committee.
In other business Tuesday night, association president Muriel Carter reported that a developer wants to build 114 two-bedroom apartments and a commercial center off Crain Highway near Aquahart Road.
Although the 8.3-acre site has been zoned for commercial and residential use, the developer needs approval from the county's Office of Planning and Zoning to subdivide the land, she said. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21.
Several residents said they planned to attend the hearing to oppose the development. But Ayres said the civic association's objections would carry little weight unless neighbors join the protest.
The principal of Glen Burnie High School, Midge Sledge, also attended the meeting to seek support for buying outdoor lights for the campus.