Here are some community updates as well as information on our Monday Council meeting.
Parkeside Preserve – damage in Quiet Waters - emergency action AGAIN
As you may recall, around 6 months ago we had issues at this property with mud and sediment (pollution) illegally running off into Quiet Waters Park. Thanks to the watchful eye from our Ward 7 residents in Beechwood Hill, we were able to document this and get things mostly resolved. The site was mostly in compliance, the Council passed a Resolution with new inspection and enforcement procedures (based on current law), and the Department of Public Works (DPW) created new inspection schedules, protocols, and got a commitment from the developer to hire a 3rd party inspector.
Fast-forward to June, and after receiving more photographs of off-site pollution I decided to visit the site myself. I noticed upwards of 18 violations to our code, despite all of these “improvements” being made by DPW. When I dug into things at the last Environmental Matters Committee meeting (which I Chair), it was discovered that DPW had actually inspected the site the morning before I sent them my list of violations. DPW found ZERO violations and said everything was in order, where again, I found 18. DPW unfortunately had no answer for this, and were dead silent when I asked them what they were going to do to correct the issue with the poor City inspections. Mysteriously, after initially finding zero violations, DPW went out a few days after I sent my report and then found around half a dozen violations. So clearly I wasn’t wrong with my assertions. This has also since been confirmed by MDE, who visited the site and essentially verified everything I was alleging. What’s worse, I had discovered that the previous Resolution the Council passed in February was utterly ignored by DPW, partially due to the previous Director resigning from his position. Yes, you read that right, DPW ignored the will of the Council. I walked through most of the provisions of this Resolution and showed them how it was being ignored. I’m still working on getting them to comply with this Resolution and will be speaking with the new City manager and DPW director next month about it.
Fast-forward to this past week, and I put together another emergency Resolution. When I went out to the site in June, I also noticed that the volume of water being discharged from this project has been causing damage to the receiving stream in Quiet Waters Park, which is illegal per our Code. I have pictures of this stream from back in 2011, and back then it was an ephemeral stream that had standing water and in some areas only blackened leaves indicating where the water flowed. So back then, there wasn’t enough force/volume of water to even move the leaves, which is why they became blackened. But now there is such volume of water leaving this project site that it has washed all of the leaves away, washed away the topsoil, created large debris jams, and is causing active erosion in the stream bed. As a 20+ year professional in stream restoration and erosion control, I can say with certainty that this stream is now unraveling and will become an eroded gully in a few years if this is not addressed (such erosion runs counter to our Code purposes). Hence this Resolution. I organized a walkthru of the stream with City and County staff, as well as the developer and County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien (who was incredibly helpful), to review the problems. After that, I finished drafting the Resolution. What the Resolution does is resolve that the Council wants immediate action taken to stabilize and protect this stream and to reduce the volume of runoff during construction, that DPW review the final stormwater permit and plans to determine if more water quantity needs to be managed post-construction, and that the $4 million bond be held for at least 2 years post-construction in case any work needs to be done after this project is built-out. We had an emergency Council session on Thursday to get this introduced, and final vote will be on Monday. If you support this I encourage you to come out and testify or submit public testimony!
Griscom Square – development at Tyler & Bay Ridge
The development at Tyler and Bay Ridge has started clearing the forest. This will be a 12-unit single family home development behind the existing homes on Tyler, between Tyler and Bethany Court and Cedar Ridge Court. This is, unfortunately, one of the “zombie” permits that lives on (see Rick Hutzell's article on this topic), despite having 2006 approval (along with the Rocky Gorge project off Aris T. Allen Blvd) that should have expired long ago. Unfortunately, Planning & Zoning decided to utilize their discretion over the years to grant extension after extension, and even cancel a cancellation of their permits oddly enough (when it comes to Rocky Gorge), which means these projects are being built to our 2006 standards rather than the most recent laws. This is rather frustrating, considering that we have worked incredibly hard to update our Forest Conservation, Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, adequate public facilities requirements, and our stormwater code, just to name a few. The Council feels ignored and bypassed by City staff. Over the next few months I’ll be introducing legislation to address/correct this underlying issue and speaking with the new City Manager.
But back to Griscom Square, I’ve secured a commitment from P&Z staff to reassess the property to determine if the forest has changed since their 2015 forest approvals, undertake a review of permit approvals and extensions, and they have committed to work with me to setup a community meeting with the developer. The purpose of this meeting will be to ensure everyone is aware of what this project entails, and to give you an opportunity to express any concerns or requests to the developer (a former local named John Pilli). I have spoken with Mr. Pilli and he is willing to meet. Once we have agreed upon a date and time I will let you know. I’m not yet sure if this will be virtual or in-person. If you have a preference, please let me know.
Carrs beach vote
We will be voting on SA-4-23, which authorizes the use of some of our Capital Reserve funds to help pay for the closing costs for acquiring the Carrs Beach property, which is a forested lot with wetlands next to BayWoods. This is the historic property that used to be an African American beach that had many famous musicians that would visit back in the day.
Police accountability board update on nominee
Our last nominee to the County Police Accountability Board ended up withdrawing his name from consideration, so we had to find a new candidate, which is now Ms. Sharron Elliott, who has an extensive background in criminal justice. I’m inclined to support her nomination, pending any comments from you.
FYI, the Council is in recess for the month of August. We will be having no meetings, which means I likely will not be sending out any email updates, unless something comes up that I feel you might want to be informed about. I’ll be trying to take a break myself, but I do have a lot of legislation to work on in between getting time with my family.
Stay healthy and stay safe,