The already heavily amended medical marijuana bill before the Anne Arundel County Council is slated to get more changes Monday as the measure's Christmas expiration date nears.
The agenda at the council's first meeting this month also includes public hearings on three bills that adopt a new school utilization chart but also aim to make changes to the process that determines if housing developments may start or stop based on school capacity.
A second public hearing is also scheduled on a bill that would reduce the percentage of people that must be 55 and older to live in an age-restricted development but still prohibit minor children from living in such areas.
Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, said he plans to introduce at least two amendments to a bill sponsored by County Executive Steve Schuh's administration that initially prohibited — then severely restricted — where the growing, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana may take place.
Trumbauer wants to ax a provision that requires armed security guards at growing operations for every 25,000 square feet of use and remove a 1,000-square-foot buffer zone from churches and parks because the county does not know where every such religious facility is located.
If any more new amendments are adopted, that would delay a vote on the bill again to the council's Dec. 21 meeting, four days before the bill is scheduled to expire.
Council members said they expect to vote on the bill before the deadline to avoid having to restart the process of implementing Maryland's state law locally from scratch — though some were still not entirely sold on the legislation in its current form.
"It's still too restrictive for my taste," Trumbauer said.
In other business, three bills that aim to alter the way housing developments are halted based on school capacity will be up for a vote Monday, but not all of them may pass.
One would adopt a current school utilization chart, which determines which facilities are considered open or closed to additional enrollment. Council members said they expected that to pass.
But two councilmen are also angling to change the process and criteria that determines if a school has enough room to accept more students.
One bill, sponsored by Council Chairman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, would allow a school's status to be changed without the formal adoption of a chart. That way, developers could proceed with projects without waiting for council approval.
Some officials said that bill removes check and balances and transparency in the process.
Alex Szachnowicz, the schools system's chief operating officer, found Walker's bill, which he introduced at the very end of the council's Oct. 5 meeting, troubling.
The bill would allow a school's status to change based on a letter from the school system to the county's Planning and Zoning officer, Larry Tom, without the formal adoption of the chart via a bill that would allow the public to weigh in.
"It takes away some of the fundamental elements that you would consider good public government," Szachnowicz said.
Another bill, sponsored by Councilman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie, would set state-rated capacity at 95 percent or less after the panel discovered a school's status can be listed as open even when there are no seats available.
The council elected to keep Lakeshore Elementary School closed when it was determined to be open despite all 342 of its seats being occupied by students.
Several council members disagreed with both bills, saying they fail to fix a bigger issue. Neither bill would be trumped by state law, Szachnowicz said.