Above the Law?
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 21st January 2017

November 30, 2015 5:04 pm ET

Crandell’s Sparrows Point bill exempts it from community input, may violate state constitution

Source: Above the Law?

Councilman Todd Crandell

I guess the champagne was flowing when developers received word of Councilman Todd Crandell’s proposed legislation that deals with the Sparrows Point Partnership.

At least we know one congressman was celebrating.

Here is something very interesting. Recently in the Dundalk Eagle, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger wrote the following letter to the editor:

“For more than a century, the now-shuttered Sparrows Point plant produced steel that literally built our country. If it operated on the sheer grit and determination of its employees, it would have run for another century.

Today, Sparrows Point’s new owners have pledged to continue the tradition of manufacturing at Sparrows Point, outlining plans to improve the site’s rail lines, upgrade the turning basin and docks and dredge the deep port. This is a commitment I share and I have helped secure federal funding for these improvements, including a recent TIGER grant.

But there is room on the 3100-acre site for endless opportunities to create thousands of jobs for Marylanders with all types of educational backgrounds and career experiences, especially the retired men and women of Sparrows Point. Some of them might need re-training to be able to return to work at the site, and we must do what we can to help them.

To that end, I applaud Councilman Todd Crandall for introducing legislation to expand the scope of opportunity at Sparrows Point beyond heavy manufacturing. His bill, for example, would allow for the construction of a recreation center, grocery store, day care center and hotel. These are appropriate quality-of-life additions to a campus that will soon be home to thousands of workers and could provide high-paying options for retirees looking to try something new in their second career.

Providing for alternative zoning is a practical and necessary step toward creating the world-class business community we all want.”

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, MD-02

I don’t think Congressman Ruppersberger saw this chart:


Now take a look at the jobs he is referring to in Mr. Crandell’s new and improved bill. Am I missing something here? Oh, yeah—living wages!

So my questions are:

· Why did Mr. Crandell’s proposed legislation 86-15 make the Congressman giddy?

· Exactly who wrote the bill?

· Why do we need more retail in an area that will compete with Dundalk’s small business owners to fight for every dollar they earn “the old fashioned way,” as the commercial used to say?

In my opinion, we surely don’t need to deal with another developer whose only interest is making a cash grab at the sake of the community. As we shall see, Mr. Crandell’s bill cuts the community input completely out of the equation.

You see, folks, what the bill does is keep prying eyes (yours and mine) out of the picture and remove the community from any input or oversight. It also goes beyond that to limit government oversight. After all, prying eyes would create tears in the ducts of the developers who have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads … instead of visions of building restaurants on top of toxic waste material.

When one reads the bill, it does not take a rocket scientist to read through the legalese to see that the bill was proposed by someone associated with a developer’s mindset regarding the changes that exclude oversight.

I defer to someone with a little more knowledge in these matters than yours truly.

Mr. Mike Pierce, whose credentials are quite impressive when it comes to scrutinizing these types of issues, has reviewed numerous bills of this type. Here is his assessment of Mr. Crandell’s effort to exclude his constituents and the vetting protocol from the development process:

Sparrows Point

Bill 86-15 allows a whole set of uses on a 3,143 acre tract under common ownership or control zoned MH. As reported in the Sun, it is “believed that Sparrows Point Terminal is the only property that would be affected” and that without the bill, they would “have to go through cumbersome processes such as seeking a zoning change in the CZMP or submitting a PUD”.

The real kicker in this bill is the final sentence that says that “a plan for development for any portion” will be treated as if it had an “A” exemption. An “A” exemption is normally granted for such things as a dwelling on a single lot, one tenant house on a farm, or a lot line adjustment when the number of lots is not changed and there is no increase in total density. It exempts the development from compliance with Subtitle 2.

The development activities or requirements that would be avoided by this “A” exemption include: concept plans, concept plan conference, referral to the Planning Board for conflicts with the Master Plan, Community Input Meeting, Hearing Officer’s hearing with possible appeal, and preparing and recording a plat. (This is obviously what the Sun referred to as “cumbersome processes”.)

In fact, as I read it, they would not be required to file a Development Plan and no county department would be required to review anything.

No county department—“Would be required to review anything!”

Mr. Pierce takes it a step further when he relates Mr. Crandell’s proposed legislation to a violation of the state constitution:

Maryland Constitution

Article III, §33 prohibits the passage of “special laws”.

The sources I find state that the Court of Special Appeals ruled explicitly that Article III, §33, while nominally addressed to the General Assembly, “logically applies to the legislative bodies … to which the General Assembly has delegated power.” Mears v. Town of Oxford, 52 Md. App. 407, 449 A.2d 1165, 1173 n. 11 (1982). As I understand, Baltimore, as a charter county, comes under this provision.

The references indicate that the only situation in which a legislative body might get away with such a law is when there is no other provision in law to accomplish thedesired result. In this case, the Baltimore County Code provides two very specific procedures: CZMP and PUDs.

In plain language, what Mr. Pierce is saying is the county, and specifically Mr. Crandell, may be breaking the law!

Folks, this is just the beginning for this issue. The council work session is Tuesday, 12/1/15, and the vote is scheduled for 12/7/15.

That’s a bit of a rush, isn’t it?

I just lit the match, so let’s see what catches fire. After all, the development site is full of combustible material.

Update: I sent Councilman Crandell a PIA asking some pertinent questions on this proposed legislation.

In addition if you look at the DRC (Dundalk Renaissance Corportation) you will see the following board member; Aaron Tomarchio V.P. of Operations, Sparrows Point Terminal, LLC.

I am also planning to send another PIA to our district senator because we all know how political these issues can get.

This is the biggest problem of all.


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