Bill 14-21 is an egregious dereliction of duty on the part of the Harford County Council. That so many current Councilmen co-sponsored this bill is a sad statement on their concern for protecting the rights of the voters.
This Bill would make Harford County the ONLY Maryland County with no appeals board. It would make it prohibitive for the average citizen to appeal decisions of the unelected Hearing Examiner. And it would be an abdication by the Council of one of their fundamental responsibilities to their constituents.
Some members of the Council claim this Bill is necessary for them to speak freely with constituents on zoning issues. Not true. Two years ago, that issue was addressed in Bill 12-33. That amendment was approved and is a current part of the Harford County Charter; there is no reason for any Council member not to speak to any constituent.
Eliminating the Board of Appeals means taking away citizens' rights to have elected representatives enforce the rules they themselves enacted. It removes the ability of most of our citizens to have their viewpoint considered because of court costs. Do the current Council members really want to charge citizens to appeal land use decisions? How is it fair to the citizens of the county to force them to pay to disagree?
We still, at least in theory, have a government that is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "by the people, of the people, for the people." Not a government by courts and lawyers, nor by or for developers. Yet that is just what this bill would give us. Bill 14-21 is a mistake, and I urge every Council member who has sponsored it to withdraw your support and put it where it belongs – with the real people who elected you.
The writer is a Democratic candidate for Harford County Council in Bel Air District C.