A Howard County citizens’ petition to bring certain decisions in the county’s recently passed comprehensive zoning bill to referendum will not move on to the ballot next November, according to county Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley.
Mickley said the group of petitioners, Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, had gathered enough valid signatures to meet the necessary minimum of 5,390 names.
But the issue was with the way the group described the contents of the petition, which by law had to be short enough to fit on one side of a sheet of paper.
Mickley said he made the decision based on a Nov. 25 meeting in which the BOE’s legal counsel advised him that the petition did not meet all of the legal requirements necessary for it to be accepted as a ballot question.
Specifically, Mickley said, the petition did not provide “a fair and accurate summary of the substantive provisions of the proposal,” one of the requirements under Maryland election law for a petition to make it onto the ballot.
But Lisa Markovitz, chair of the Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, said the group had followed all the rules.
"We asked for approval and requirement information ahead of time and we followed all of their standards and requirements and regulations," she said. "And now that we have succeeded... the Board Of Elections is actually reversing its opinion. And for them to throw out a legitimate referendum now is just outrageous."
The attorney retained by the Board of Elections to give legal advice on the petition, Jerry Richman, maintained that the one-page summary of the petitioners’ issues with the comprehensive zoning bill, which included much-debated zoning decisions in Savage, Maple Lawn, Elkridge and elsewhere, “wasn’t a fair summary of any section [of the comprehensive zoning bill], to my knowledge.”
Tuesday, November 26th, the Howard County Board of Elections made a decision, as opposition filings against the referendum requested it be invalidated.
Therefore, even though there were almost 7000 (6928) signatures gathered to place 6 parcels, two pending lawsuits on 2 parcels, a definition in the Howard County Comprehensive Zoning Plan of 2013 (known as CB32-2013) and a “limitation” on the “footprint (size) of farming structures throughout the County, the opposition to the Referendum wanted it invalidated.
This means the items on the referendum will NOT be placed on the ballot for your vote -- and the existing zoning can continue for the opponents disputing the referendum unless each parcel or condition has its own litigation to alter it.
Opponents requested in writing that the petition be denied. We at Citizens Working to Fix Howard County (FixHoCo), though, have a plan to appeal the refusal to put the certified signatures on the ballot. We need financial support to overturn the Board of Election's action against almost 7000 citizens who signed this in favor of the referendum. Please donate to our group, or join it, or both. We must continue to work to keep the citizens' concerns and their voices heard in the County and in the Zoning process.
© 2013 Citizens Working to Fix Howard County | PO Box 154 | Fulton MD 20759-0154 | (240) 389.3770
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