Just what is a lawn fete anyway? Nobody seems quite sure, but one thing is clear -- civic groups can now have them on Sundays.
The County Council approved legislation Monday allowing non-profit organizations to sponsor lawn fetes, carnivals and other special events seven days a week, but killed an administration proposal to attach stringent rules.
Civic groups complained the county was raining on their parades, while an irate Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Glen Burnie, attacked the regulations as "off base" and a symbol of the worst in government bureaucracy.
Mr. Middlebrooks groaned that he "opened Pandora's box" by introducing a bill earlier this year to help non-profit groups make ends meet. "From what we started with, which was to allow these events on Sunday, to what we've gone to is just way off base," he said.
He re-introduced his original bill and won the unanimous support of the other six council members. The action was a political defeat for County Executive Robert R. Neall, who vetoed the first version six months ago and turned it over to the Amusement Licensing Commission for review.
The newly created committee attempted to redefine an old county law governing "carnivals, bazaars, lawn fetes and similar events," and set down five pages of rules. But most of the regulations irked groups such as the Glen Burnie Civic Association, which raises money for charities with a popular carnival every summer.
"I was yo-yoed around by the powers that be until a week before our carnival. I mean, this is getting to be like Russia," complained Frances Jones, president of the Arundel Improvement Association in Brooklyn Park.
She said the association was forced to postpone the parade before its annual carnival, held last month, because she could not get permission from the new commission in time.
Both she and Muriel Carter, president of the Glen Burnie Civic Association, testified against the Neall bill. They argued against a clause requiring that all volunteers be members of the civic association, saying they often draft people at the last minute.
Ms. Carter also questioned requiring criminal background checks on all volunteers, saying it would be nearly impossible for the 1,200 people who help out at the Glen Burnie carnival.
In other business, the council:
* Approved emergency legislation allowing police officers to retire after 20 years of service without waiting until they reach age 50. The county's current retirement plan penalized younger retiring officers by providing fewer benefits.
* Defeated a bill that would have required volunteer fire stations to sign an agreement promising to stay open and conform to certain standards before receiving county money for repairs. Louis A. D'Camera, president of the Anne Arundel Volunteer Firefighters Association, compared the proposal to "repairing the roof of your house and telling you how to live in it."
* Altered the county code on group homes for the elderly to match state standards, which allow up to 15 seniors to live together. The county had only permitted 11 in a group home. Council Chairwoman Virginia Clagett introduced the emergency bill, saying scores of seniors were waiting to get into group homes.