CB3-2020 Columbia Village Covenant Amendment Needed

Below is an email I sent to the County Council on the need for an amendment providing for Architectural Committee approval, if necessary, from the appropriate Columbia Village Community Association if a scooter company wishes to place a docking station in the commercial areas of the village centers.

Dear Council,

The amendments for CB3 address many points omitted from the draft of the bill. However, I believe that is also necessary to address the issue that approval from the Architectural Committee from the appropriate Columbia Village Community Associations might be needed, especially for example, if the scooter companies wish to put docking stations on the Kimco properties in the village centers.

During the break in the Council Work Session, I spoke with the representative from Spin. I tried to explain that Architectural Committee approval might be needed in addition to any agreements with the private property owners. He stated that they would not operate on private property without permission. I said that was missing the point and that possibly approval from the Columbia Village Community Associations might also be needed. Because of this unique requirement, I think is imperative that these out-of-state companies be on notice that Architectural Committee approval might be necessary.

Therefore, I propose that the following language be added as Amendment 1 to Amendment 4:


I know that the Council, especially Councilwoman Rigby with her past membership on the Kings Contrivance Village Board, recognizes the role that the village covenants play in land use in Columbia. The Wilde Lake Board has a short discussion on e-scooters scheduled for Monday evening. As a member of the Harper’s Choice Board, I had the scooter covenant issue placed on the agenda for the Board meeting on Tuesday; I hope to have the Board endorse the language for Amendment 1 to Amendment 4.

If the Council would like to have this input from the Columbia Villages, I urge the Council to delay taking final action on CB3 this month.

I would appreciate if you could have your offices respond Monday afternoon with your general thoughts on including the Columbia Village covenant language in the bill and the sense of the Council on whether there will be a final vote on the bill at Monday’s Legislative Session.

As always, I am happy to discuss this topic further.


Joel Hurewitz

Howard County Double-Books for Hickory Ridge Community Meetings

Hickory Ridge residents that care about the community and development plans have a difficult choice Wednesday night January 15, 2020. The County has double-booked community meetings.

The Zoning Board continues the case of the Hickory Ridge redevelopment at 6:30 at the George Howard Building. Meanwhile at Altholton High School also at 6:30 pm will be the Hickory Ridge Bike Corridor Public Meeting.

CB55-2019 – The Maryland Court of Appeals Ruled That Counties are Preempted Regarding Solar Energy Generating Systems Requiring a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Whether the Preemption Will be Extended to Community Solar Energy Generating Systems

In July 2019, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Washington County v. Perennial Solar that local land use authority was preempted by PU § 7-207 for solar energy generating systems requiring a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the Public Service Commission (PSC). Though the bill sponsor is aware of this court opinion, the failure to recognize it within the text of CB55 gives the legislation the imprimatur of legal sufficiency, authority, and practical effect which it does not deserve.

In its conclusion, the Court of Appeals stated:

PU § 7-207 [Generating stations or transmission lines — General certification procedure] preempts by implication local zoning authority approval for the siting and location of generating stations which require a CPCN [Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity]. The statute is comprehensive and grants the PSC broad authority to determine whether and where SEGS (solar energy generating systems) may be constructed. Local land use interests are specifically designated by statute as requiring “due consideration” by the PSC. This includes the recommendation of the governing body of each county or municipal corporation in which any portion of the construction of the generating station is proposed to be located, as well as due consideration by the PSC of the consistency of the application with the comprehensive plan and zoning for the respective local jurisdiction. Under the plain language of the statute, local government is a significant participant in the process, and local planning and zoning concerns are important in the PSC approval process. However, the ultimate decision-maker is the PSC, not the local government or local zoning board. Although local zoning laws are preempted and therefore not directly enforceable by the local governments as applied to generating stations such as SEGS, they are nevertheless a statutory factor requiring due consideration by the PSC in rendering its ultimate decision.

Comments during the public hearing, especially those from the bill sponsor, regarding solar regulations in other counties expressed an apparent naive understanding of a legacy of pre-Perennial Solar jurisprudence in a post-Perennial Solar world. In addition, those waiting for the State Task Force fail to recognize that its recommendations for siting will be made post-Perennial Solar. These sediments are reflected in a MACo article discussing the import of the Court’s ruling:

More Aggressive Solar Developers: The Court’s holding could embolden some solar developers to minimize or even ignore local government zoning and land use concerns. The PSC becomes the main backstop in protecting local government interests against developers who fail to work with local governments.


Community SEGS do not require a CPCN from the PSC, but instead have a separate regulatory scheme. While the community solar legislation does not include the participation of the local government in the approval process or the legislative history relied upon by the Court, it does include a stated legislative intent regarding climate change referencing the State’s renewable energy portfolio standard and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act which were discussed by the Perennial Solar Court.

The community solar is a pilot program which runs through 2024. One of the secondary factors the courts use in determining whether a local law is preempted by implication include whether it “would engender chaos and confusion.” The PSC is to study community solar during the pilot. If multiple counties were to place moratoriums on community solar, it could frustrate the pilot program’s capacity and geographic determinations as established by the PSC, or even the ability of the pilot study to successfully continue.

Determining whether counties are preempted in imposing a moratorium on community solar might very well be the lawsuit in which Howard County is the defendant as it is forced to defend CB55. The County has made climate change a major policy initiative as expressed by joining We Are Still In and by being the only government body to take the Natural and Working Lands Challenge. Litigation challenging CB55, could be costly, time consuming and and counter productive to these efforts. One of the court opinions relied upon by the Court of Appeals was the case of Howard County v. Potomac Electric Power Co., (1990) “preempted by implication county zoning ordinances regulating the location and construction of overhead transmission lines in excess of 69,000 volts.” Howard County need not be the party to a second major case in this electric power preemption area.

The Council should vote NO on CB55-2019.

HCPD Shares Incorrect Date for Safeway Robbery

On September 27, the Howard County Police Department offered a $1000 reward regarding a purported September 13 theft and robbery incident at the Harper’s Choice Safeway in Columbia. Employees were pepper sprayed while attempting to stop the theft. In addition, a young girl is seen on security video with the adult suspects. However, based on prior statements of the HCPD, the incident actually occurred on September 12, not the 13th.

After the offer of the reward, local media and at least one local blogger posted the story on or after September 27. In addition, by Monday the video had received nearly 8000 views.

Scott E’s Blog had a headline about the “Sept 13 robbery” and included the reward statement and surveillance video. The HCPD also said the incident occurred at 8:08 pm.


WBALTV did a live report from the parking lot and stated that “the robbery was in progress on Sept. 13.”


Fox45 News essentially just posted the HCPD video without an accompanying story.


However, Fox45 had previously reported the story on Friday September 13 as having occurred “last night”– September 12.


On September 16, Patch had reported the incident as having occurred on September 12.


More importantly, the Howard County Police Daily Crime Bulletin for Friday, September 13, 2019 stated that the incident occurred at 8:11 pm on September 12.


In addition, the Daily Crime Bulletin for September 13 was posted on Facebook on September 13 at 4:14 pm–about four hours before the purported incident was now said to have occurred in the HCPD video.

After this matter was brought to their attention, HCPD Office of Public Affairs responded: ” You are correct. It did occur on Sept. 12, and the Sept. 13 date was posted in error. It will be corrected. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. “

So the Safeway incident occurred on Thursday, September 12 and not Friday, September 13.

CR49-2019: Savage Stone, LLC is the Land Owner for MDE Permit Renewal

The Quarry DRRA has many issues regarding the undisclosed property interests which are required by the DRRA law. Some of these issues were previously discussed here.

Below is a copy of an email sent to the County Council regarding whether Chase Land, LLC owns the Quarry Property as stated in the DRRA, or whether Savage Stone, LLC owns not only the undisclosed mineral interests but also the land itself as shown in the MDE Application and Mining & Reclamation Plan Renewal.

Dear Councilmembers,

As I previously stated in my written testimony and comments at the Work Session on April 29, 2019, Savage Stone, LLC and not Chase Land is identified as the surface land owner in the MDE permit renewal. 

Either the MDE documents or the DRRA are in error regarding the ownership of the quarry property.

This core issue of ownership of the Quarry Property must be resolved before the DRRA is approved. 

Also note that the email contact is Collin@aggmgt.com

The Application and Mining & Reclamation Plan Renewal is attached. 

Election Alert! Mavourene Robinson Gets Just 92 Votes

The Howard County Board of Elections completed its canvass of the remaining absentee votes Friday afternoon.

According to Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley, Board of Education Write-in candidate Mavourene Robinson received just 92 votes in what proved to be a quixotic campaign. This is less than one vote per precinct. 

A total of 385,781 votes were cast in the Board of Education races. A total of 1,685 write-in votes were received, but other than the 92 votes for Robinson, the remaining votes were invalid with many being for fictitious characters. 

194,283 under votes were recorded where the voter chose less than four candidates, and 804 ballots contained over votes. 

Vicky Cutroneo and Chao Wu were the top two vote winners and will get 4-year terms with 58,426 and 54,254 votes respectively.  Jen Mallo and Sabina Taj will get 2-year terms with 53,766 for Mallo and 51,842  for Taj.

As a comparison of how far behind Robinson was, Danny Mackey came in eighth place with 36,923 votes. 



BREAKING NEWS – Katie Fry Hester Increases Lead Over Gail Bates to 531 Votes

Katie Fry Hester increased her lead Friday morning over Gail Bates for the District 9 Senate seat. Shortly after 1:30 am, the  Howard County Canvassing Board announced the results of the first canvass of absentee ballots.

Hester now leads Bates by 531 votes. The absentee canvass result was 1076 for Hester and 707 for Bates. After election night on Tuesday, Hester held a lead of 154 votes. Earlier in the day Thursday, the results of the absentee canvass in Carroll County was announced. Hester picked up 8 votes in the Carroll portion of the district with votes 116 while Bates had 108 votes. Hester now has 32,366 votes to 31,835 for Bates.

The all-day canvass began at 10 am Thursday in Columbia. A total of  4375 absentee ballots were processed. 4356 were accepted while 19 were rejected.  The major time-consuming step is that emailed ballots had to be recreated by hand onto machine-readable ballots.

Voters should be reminded to remember to sign the oath and to NOT print the oath of an emailed ballot on the back of the ballot itself. Also do NOT write your name on the top the ballots apparently to differentiate which ballot belongs to the various members in a household. Also do NOT send in the ballot for the primary election.  All of these ballot mistakes were rejected.

Representatives for Gail Bates challenged the decision to reject 6 ballots which had the oath printed on the back of the ballot arguing unsuccessfully that the double-sided printing was inadvertent and not done “purposefully” to place an identifying mark on the ballot.

The provisional and additional absentee canvasses will be conducted next week.


UPDATE: This post was updated to add the information on the number of ballots processed and the major reasons for rejections.