2 delegates aim to stem conflicts in Howard zoning

January 05, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County Council members would be forbidden from voting on rezoning issues involving developers who have contributed to their political campaigns, under legislation to be sponsored by two local delegates.

Delegates Martin G. Madden and John S. Morgan, both Republicans from District 13B, told a League of Women Voters forum yesterday that they would introduce the bill in the upcoming General Assembly in hopes of reducing developers' influence over zoning matters.

The new delegates said the bill would apply to all developers who have at least a 5 percent ownership in any partnership or business venture, as well as to contributions by their spouses and dependent children.

Prince George's County's delegation adopted a similar measure in 1989, but it was thrown out by appeals courts on a technicality. A similar measure was reintroduced last year but died in the legislature.

Mr. Morgan said he thinks the legislation is "essential, because when developers give money to a council member, they want special access when they go into the zoning board hearing" on a rezoning petition.

He said members of the County Council, which also acts as the zoning board, preside "like judges in rezoning cases and are not supposed to hear testimony outside the hearing."

The chairman of the county's House delegation, Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-14B, gave the bill little chance of approval by the delegation.

"I don't think it will pass, because it singles out members of the Council Council for special restrictions and it misleads the public into thinking it is doing more than it actually is," he said. "I think we have to look at the issue of political contributions across the board."

Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, also said he would not support the effort of his fellow Republicans.

"I would not support it unless it covered the delegation in Annapolis as well," said Mr. Feaga, who received contributions from developers during the past election. "No one is going to buy anyone for $400 or $500."

Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, who received more than $15,000 from developers this fall when he ran unopposed, said the two delegates should clean up their own house before looking toward the council.

"They should apply the legislation to the funds they have received from political action groups initially before trying to apply it to the council," he said "They assume there is some nefarious activity taking place between council members and developers, which is not the case. I absolutely resent and reject that notion."

But John W. Taylor, a civic activist from Highland, said the bill was needed. he cited as evidence Mr. Gray's recent proposal to eliminate the key provisions of a bill limiting residential growth in the county.

"The developers cleaned up in the past election and are riding high [as] evidenced by Mr. Gray's bill to kill the growth cap," Mr. Taylor said. "The system is broken and someone needs to fix it."

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