Among a mixture of outcry and support, the Anne Arundel County Council passed workforce housing legislation and postponed the fair housing bill after its Monday meeting ran past the window of time for votes on legislation.
With a 4-3 vote, the bill that will create incentives for workforce development and expand zoning districts from two residential zones to nine in residential, commercial, industrial and mixed use, was approved.
Council members Nathan Volke, Amanda Fiedler and Jessica Haire all voted in opposition to the bill after attempting to pass eight amendments. Only one amendment introduced by Chairman Andrew Pruski was approved.
“This council has been known to, generally, work together without super partisanship,” Volke said. “Frankly, there have been valid concerns raised by the community and I am not going to support the bill in this current form.”
More than 30 residents and advocates testified on workforce housing legislation to either offer support or ask for more details that at moments turned heated with booing and cheering in packed county council chambers.
At the request of the county executive, Councilman Andrew Pruski introduced the two bills as part of a larger vision for fair housing in Anne Arundel. Under the new workforce housing bill, Arundel Community Development Services estimates at least 60 new homes could be available in the next three years.
The bill allows workforce housing to be developed beyond R10 and R15 to include nine more zones: R5 residential; commercially zoned C2, C3, and C4; industrial zoned W1 properties and all mixed use districts.
Developers could build in any of the expanded zones with a maximum of 22 units per acre under certain conditions.
Developers would have to comply with the following conditions: location on a collector or higher classification road, served by public water and sewer, at least 40% of home ownership units must have household occupants with an income that doesn’t exceed 100% of the area media income and at least 60% of rental units must have household occupants with an income that doesn’t exceed 60% of the median income.
The fair housing legislation would prohibit discrimination in housing based on 17 protected classes including gender identity or expression, occupation, source of income and citizenship.
During the public hearing, the residents questioned citizenship and source of income the most in testimonies.
Grasso went up to testify again and tried to point out the addresses and how much houses owned by council members cost.
His testimony turned heated and Councilwoman Lacey requested he be removed from the chambers. After counsel reviewed the code of ethics, Grasso was asked to stop including personal attacks on the council members and focus on his testimony.
Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien also spoke up about some of the discussion around sources of income and people who use vouchers.
“When I first moved to Annapolis, I lived right on Clay Street,” she said. “I had the most wonderful neighbors that I ever had. I am really tired of the negative stereotypes spread about people with vouchers.”
Volke had presented nearly 20 amendments to the bill but after the council went through the first two, they voted in favor of blocking the rest from debate.
“I think it is worth while having a debate on this issue,” Volke said after expressing frustration.