November 24, 2015 9:58 pm ET
Board of Elections says community has enough signatures to send bill on outlet mall to the ballot
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ bill goes to referendum
Talk about a (dramatic pause) takedown!
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ bill that would jam an outlet mall in the White Marsh corridor, right down the community’s throat, is now in the hands of the general voting public.
The Baltimore County Board of Elections verified that there are enough signatures to send the issue to a referendum, and we the people will decide the outcome rather than the seven members of the “rubber stamp squad,” otherwise known as the county council.
This whole issue was a contentious one as Mrs. Bevins attempted a run-around the system in what is called “spot zoning,” meaning the zoning rule applied to one developer and a single parcel of land.
Mr. Mike Pierce—whose job before retirement, was to review various telecommunications issues to make sure they comply with all local, state, and federal regulations—provided the following assessment:
Bill 53-15 introduced by Cathy Bevins defines “Regional Outlet Shopping Center “ as being “on a site of at least 45 acres, located adjacent to I-95” and applies only to one currently zoned BL, BM, BR, or ML. Never mind that BL (Business Local) is directly contradictory to “Regional”.
Again, a detailed search of the zoning maps indicates that this is the only property in the County that this definition applies to. (Quirk’s name was on the bill only because I-95 goes through his district.)
There were other ramp issues—or road blocks, if you prefer—when a retired traffic engineer from the Maryland State Highway Administration, Mr. Gene Simmers, pointed out that the ramp planned by a group of other state engineers (who formed their own company and worked for a variety of developers) was, in fact, not going to meet federal regulations. The ramp was to be built on I-95 and was supposed to alleviate some of the gridlock.
At one community meeting, Mr. Simmers’ credentials were attacked, especially when he reiterated his expertise and long career as a state highway employee who specialized in these issues.
Of course, Mrs. Bevins pulled out all of the stops to use everything in her bag of tricks (i.e., propaganda) in an attempt to discredit anyone who objected to the outlet mall.
I attempted several times to garnish information from the developer, Paragon, on some of their claims. However, they pleaded the fifth, also known as “no comment!”
Paying no mind to the testimony that that entire area was in gridlock and the outlet mall would only create havoc, Councilwoman Bevins continued to ramp up support for the outlet mall.
Did she ever stop to think this could cost her the county council seat she occupies? I mean, there are more than 67,633 people who signed this petition, and they are all registered voters.
Instead of a nice fuzzy rabbit in the black hat, there was a big bear called the community—you know, the ones who vote, rallying behind their leader, Heather Patti.
Mrs. Bevins underestimated the tenacity of Ms. Patti, a community leader who refused to accept this boondoggle of a bill and—along with the owners of the White Marsh Mall—fought back. The fight featured council hearings and testimony from both sides of the coin, including the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company, which supported Mrs. Bevins’ bill.
One can only guess why the firefighters supported the outlet mall. I’ll stay out of that one, folks.
I truly believe this could cost the councilwoman her job, as many of the voters are tired of politicians who simply rubber stamp the agenda of the county executive, Mr. Kamenetz. The council, and its aloof agenda, favors developers over the concerns of the community; in this day and age of voter upheaval, Mrs. Bevins may find herself looking for another career once the voters speak.
There are other issues that will again rise to the surface concerning Councilwoman Bevins’ transparency, but—come election time—she will have to answer to the voters on those issues.
Ms. Patti made the following comment regarding this matter:
“I was elated to learn this morning that the petition drive was a success. Not only have the citizens’ voices been heard, but I believe that the citizens’ signatures have set a precedent for Baltimore County — we WILL join together and oppose legislation which does not support the collective community’s best interest.
I would like to thank each and every Baltimore County resident who volunteered their time and energy to make this possible. From Dundalk to White Marsh, from Carney to Parkton, and from Parkville to Freeland, community leaders welcomed me to their gatherings and were quick to see Bill 53-15 for what it really was.
Lastly, I would like to thank General Growth Partners for their ongoing collaboration and assistance in this matter. Clearly the residents of Baltimore County had the passion and initiative, but not the resources to compete with a company such as Paragon…”