Kelly Discusses Growth at Town Hall
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Kelly Discusses Growth at Town Hall
La Plata, MD - 4/26/2012
By Andy Marquis
Charles County Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) drew a standing room only crowd at her town hall meeting on Wednesday night in La Plata.
Charles County residents expressed their support for Charles County Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) during a town hall meeting in La Plata on Wednesday night. Much of the discussion was focused on growth and how it affected public schools in the county.
“The county did an incredible job,” Howard Dent said regarding the 2012 Comprehensive Plan process. “Now, the planning commission has ignored that and has gone back to the 2006 plan.”
“Thank you to everyone who participated in the charrettes,” Kelly said. “It’s important that we make our thoughts known through the proper channels. My particular opinion is that I’m very discouraged. We had joint meetings where we invited experts. I contacted BGI and heard from those folks. It’s discouraging after we did that that they decided there was no need for studies. I was discouraged that we didn’t follow through with a Priority Preservation Area. I’m hoping, that as the process continues, that we’ll see a little more openness and willingness.
“The future of agriculture has changed. The Mattawoman is an economic development issue. We have to understand that. We need jobs in Charles County. Our board needs to get the smartest people. This isn’t about environmentalists, business people or developers; once I got here I’m no longer here for that. I’m here for the future, here for you guys. What am I going to leave behind for my kids?
I stand committed; I’m not going to get off my soapbox. It may not be popular and I know I’m not popular for it.”
“I want to correct you on something that you said was wrong,” Alex Winter said. “You said that you’re not popular. Now that correction’s been made, and I know it’s true.”
Winter, an outspoken supporter of Kelly, was met with applause.
“There is, I don’t know you can do anything about this, I think everyone understand this but there’s a friend of mine, one of the commissioners, and it’s like I don’t have the same access as some other people have,” Winter continued. “I would not presume to, I’m just very unhappy that someone can be so closely allied with an interest group that has plenty of influence just with its money to the extent that he recuses himself. The ethics commission was poor, weak in addressing this problem. Just after being recused, coming in and working on one of the issues influencing that he was recused on. I feel cheated as a citizen. I go to the hearings and testify but this is setup is just not fair. One side has an unfair advantage. I read the explanations of why it’s alright, it doesn’t pass the laugh test and it’s not alright.”
“What was happening, emails and texting is new,” Kelly responded. “This particular article about problems with Board of Education members in Fairfax County texting each other leading up to the meeting. There was an allegation made that it constituted a meeting and the citizens had a right to hear all this. What was interesting was that, they refer to Ann Arbor where something similar happened and they were sued by the group. Ann Arbor changed their laws.
“One of my priorities is, we’re continuing to talk, and I’d like to get some policies and ethical standards on how we behave during meetings. Cell phones during meetings drives me nuts. We need to have a meeting of the minds on that. These are legal communications. What I’m hoping is that our board will have an opportunity to address this. What we would call ex parte communication, there’s nothing that prohibits that. We’ve got to have standard and procedure. This is a board that should never make a decision in a vacuum. Anything that involves regulating ourselves should include the input of citizens.”
“I did not know Candice Quinn Kelly,” Elridge Proctor said. “I wrote to every commissioner, state delegates, whoever would listen and she responded and listened and I appreciate her bringing the community together.”
“I understand what these mothers are going through with their middle school students,” Kelly responded. “It’s a new day in Charles County because you don’t want to mess with these mama bears. We are working more closely with the Board of Education. School Allocation is the most complicated mathematical process. We know it’s broken. It seems our board has taken the position that it’s not our problem. It doesn’t happen everywhere. The people who have been in this county and paying tax, their children shouldn’t be disrupted while the new folks come in. The issue is not just redistricting but how we grow the county.”
“One of the things the planning commission doesn’t understand is that their positions do not affect other people,” Ted Baker said. “If, in their process, they would look at not where development could be allowed but where it should be allowed, the county would be better off. They won’t think that way. They think, school redistricting, that’s the school board.”
“It’s tough being a kid in middle school,” Kelly responded. “We’re behind in schools. The way we do things in school allocations, there’s no way to match it. What I would like to see happen is, we go through this process and this information goes to the BOE and they decide what’s going to happen. The loop never gets closed. They never come back to us. It’s important that the Board of County Commissioners understands this. The developer can come in and say they’ll pay a certain amount of money and we’ll get a certain amount of units. In our county, what happens is they can buy a school seat. We don’t need to be entering in to Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (DRRAs) right now. We need to see what’s going to happen with the comprehensive plan.”
“We are having a problem on budgets because there’s more of a drain,” Maryland State Delegate Peter Murphy (D: 28th District, Charles County) If you start building in areas where new roads and schools need to be built, don’t come to the state asking for money because we don’t have money to do that. The money’s just not there.”
“The Army Corps of Engineers denied permit,” Kelly said talking about the Cross County Connector and addressing Billingsley Road concerns. “ACOE wants us to expand MD-228. You’re going to love this Peter (Murphy). MD-228 is a state road and the state and counties needs to work together. In order to get anything going, the federal government begins the process. Well, the federal government wants to see regional cooperation. The Cross County Connector, we’re going to get something that helps the commuters and doesn’t damage the environment. We’ve got safety issues on Billingsley Road. It’s dangerous. What we can do is put $11 million in our recommended CIP.”
“Is there anything the commissioners can do now for the kids that have to go down that road,” one resident asked.
“I can ask but that’s the Board of Education,” Kelly said.
“It’s hard for kids to be redistricted, but it’s even harder for schools in carts,” Education Association of Charles County President Elizabeth Brown said.
“If you live in Prince George’s County, you can pay to send kids to Diggs, Davis and North Point,” a resident said to Brown. “They pay less for their kids to go to those schools than it costs for kids to go to St. Mary’s Ryken.”
“There are only nine students coming to Charles County paying tuition,” Brown replied, though the accuracy of her numbers was challenged as the resident asking the question mentioned that she was only stating the number of employees who have their Prince George’s County students in Charles County schools. Charles County Public Schools has made an effort to remove Prince George’s County children from Charles County schools, but Brown said the county will continue to provide education for homeless students.
“I have full faith and confidence in the Board of Education,” Kelly said. “I want to see this loop closed. That Cross County Connector was conceived many years ago. A lot has changed. The ACOE made no secrets about this. I had a letter on 2009 and they said it won’t happen. When problems come to government, you can’t just brush them under the rug; you’ve got to admit there’s a problem.”
Kelly then spoke in depth about DRRAs and the Adequete Public Facilities (APF) ordinances.
“Most of those DRRAs were defaulted on,” Kelly said. “The previous board forgave the debt and gave them a payment plan right before we got sworn in. The residents gave them a payment plan. Multiple people are being foreclosed on and they can’t get put on a payment plan. I have problems, I have buildings that I owe money on but I’m not asking you to pay me for it. When you can’t pay your water bill, we cut it off. Fair is fair. We’ve got to do what is right for you. Yes, they gave us land. Damn right, they should have, they made a lot of money. We need to treat developers fairly but we’ve got to tell things the way they are. When they could not pay DRRAs, we had a right to say pay it or agreement’s over. What happened in Brookwood, mistakes happen but 500 extra units and nobody knew about it. I’m not buying it. The citizens came to the county commissioners and said we don’t want this road to come through Brookwood. We had an employee who kept digging and we had violated our own APF ordinance. We could’ve shut down development but this BOCC was fair minded, reasonable and we worked out an agreement with them. On the plans, there is a small little road that goes from Billingsley that goes up to Middletown that they could’ve built it and the county would have bonded it for them. They didn’t want to do it and we still worked with them. Facts are facts. This is business and I’m on your side of this business deal.
“APF was banking on Cross County Connector. They could have gotten that but they went way beyond that. If you really want a road built and you’ve got MDE and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) saying no and you’ve got to give us these reports and you have developers ahead of where they should be, get the studies or change the plan. I’m opposed to not doing the right thing. The way we have allowed the county to grow is broken. Last October, I made a motion that we go to SRC. Actually, I brought it up and Ken Robinson made the motion. SRC is much more conservative. That’s not the solution to the problem. The problem is going to the planning commission and getting them to understand that we need to slow this down. This is not about being against developers, this is about developing wisely.”
“We’re not caught up in our kids being moved,” Proctor said. “There’s a culture of kids being moved. If we don’t do smart growth, we’re going to be talking about taxes. Let’s continue to show up at these public hearings.”
“I’m still concerned about redistricting in Charles County because it seems like a quick fix. I thought I was involved. My kids will be redistricted 10 miles away from our home. Because we want to be involved, this harms us. We can’t get stability or transparency.”
“I sat on the planning commission,” Murphy said. “I was on the side that waited for you folks to show up and you never did. The developers were there but the citizens were never there. You have more power and influence than you realize. We fought to upgrade Billingsley Road and we were shot down by some folks in office. I encourage you to go to planning commission meetings, that’s where it all happens. It matters who comes and testifies. This county belongs to everybody in this room. I know it’s a hassle but it’s worth every effort you put in to it. Nothing matters more to us as parents and grandparents than the children in this county. If you show up, I promise you’ll see some changes.”
Residents have participated in the Comprehensive Plan process and sat through Planning Commission meetings, which has caused residents to feel that their input has been ignored. During a previous planning commission meeting, resident Nancy Schertler expressed frustration that multiple planners on the commission were ignoring her as she spoke during the public appearance segment of the meeting.
“I wanted to apologize to the parents because I did not acknowledge you’re concerns on redistricting,” Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) said. “You’re voice is really important and it comes from a more important perspective than anyone else’s. I commend you for getting involved. I probably know 70% in this room and I try to be accessible.”
Robinson urged residents to get more involved through meetings and through social media. Robinson has reached out to residents through Facebook, where he has over 2,400 friends and often engages discussion with the community about current events in the county.
The meeting was Kelly's first since the passage of Resolution 2012-18, which did not come up during the meeting with the exception of Kelly joking that, “As of a couple weeks ago, I can’t do much of anything.”
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