The Anne Arundel County Council passed a resolution Monday night labeling bullying a public nuisance and calling on the county’s health officer to craft a nuisance prevention plan.
The bill passed in a 6-1 vote with only Councilman Michael Peroutka, R-Millersville, voting against it.
It was sponsored by Councilman Pete Smith, D-Severn, who pressed forward on the resolution despite county lawyers’ concerns that bullying could be declared a nuisance. State law defines nuisance as an act dealing with real property while bullying issues in the county are primarily centered around students.
This resolution isn’t just about schools, it is about all types of bullying and the council is granted the power to declare nuisances and combat them, Smith said.
“If there are legal challenges down the road, who cares?” Smith said. “No one is going to say we did nothing.”
Peroutka said he supported Smith’s goal on combating bullying, but opposed the resolution on the grounds the council may be overstepping its bounds in regard to the law.
“I share your passion about the subject matter, and I do also share your affinity that we are the Board of Health and we should be proactive in that role,” Peroutka said.
The County Council also unanimously passed legislation Monday instituting a moratorium on zoning changes while county officials draft and debate the county’s long-term development plan.
In doing so, the county will halt administrative zoning changes. During this moratorium, zoning can only be changed through text amendments or comprehensive zoning ordinances, county officials said.
County Executive Steve Schuh introduced the moratorium as part of a broader legislative package tackling various zoning issues.
“I am grateful that the Council has passed our development upzoning moratorium,” Schuh said. “This is an important first step as we work to protect the character of our communities and ensure our county grows responsibly.”
The moratorium will start July 15 and last until 90 days after the draft of the General Development Plan is submitted to the County Council. The moratorium also would end upon introduction of an ordinance that adopts the General Development Plan or July 1, whichever comes first. The plan is crafted every eight years and serves as a 20-year guide on development.
Timing of the moratorium’s start and end dates was contentious as the council wanted the moratorium to start sooner and last longer. County executive officials pushed for the moratorium to end after the General Development Plan was submitted to the council by December 2019. The bill was amended to push that date back and include a 90-day buffer.
Other zoning legislation passed Monday included a bill increasing the distance at which residents are notified of public hearings near their properties. The distance was increased from 175 to 300 feet.
Medical marijuana bill
A bill prohibiting variances for medical marijuana projects was amended Monday to make it easier for such developments to build in business complexes on industrial zoned property.
Bill 24-18 would prohibit granting variances to medical marijuana projects building north of Route 50 or east of the South River. Projects in these areas have stricter requirements, including 1,000-foot distances from Board of Education properties and residences. The projects also have to be built upon highly trafficked roads. Variances are a tool used by homeowners, builders and developers to seek relief from certain county rules when it is proven those rules are too onerous.
Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, proposed the amendment. It was cosponsored by Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton.
Trumbauer said he did put forth the amendment because the council learned these specific locations could not meet the highly trafficked road requirements as the law was written.
When the council implemented the medical marijuana requirements, part of the reason was to put those projects within industrial zones, so this amendment provides a narrow exemption, Trumbauer said.