The meeting room at City Hall in Westminster was packed wall to wall Monday evening with citizens there to discuss a proposed apartment complex near the Furnace Hills neighborhood in the city.
The proposed apartment complex would be located on a 5.3-acre site called the Clark Farm Properties, located off of Mulligan Lane and east of WTTR Lane. Hundreds have signed a petition protesting the project.
Although the discussion about that proposal dominated the public comment sections of the meeting, normal business touched on proposed ordinances for a vaping ban in public places and for an update on how thoroughly city leaders will have to disclose personal information about property and business.
Proposed vaping ban
Those hoping to weigh in on the city’s proposal to ban the use of e-cigarettes in some public areas will have the chance to comment at a public hearing during the council’s second meeting in February.
The hearing will take place in conjunction with the Feb. 24 meeting of the Common Council. The city will announce specifics of the hearing soon.
The proposed ban is modeled on the statewide restrictions on smoking tobacco in public places.
The Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007 was intended to limit the exposure to indoor tobacco smoke by prohibiting smoking in indoor areas open to the public, specifically including public meeting places, public transportation vehicles and indoor places of employment. The law excludes some hotel/motel rooms and businesses set up specifically for the sale of tobacco.
Westminster residents may also send comments including a name and address to City Clerk Shannon Visocsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethics ordinance discussion
It’s been the position of Westminster’s government that they are compliant with the requirements for their ethics ordinance. But for several years, the State Ethics Commission has not agreed.
The topic came up in the 2019 election debates, and in early January some council members asked the city’s attorney to draft an update that would appease the state commission.
At the second council meeting in January, members weighed in on specifics. The changes will almost certainly make the disclosure process more burdensome for elected officials especially, as well as department heads. The council members wanted to strike a balance so that the process is not so invasive that it prevents qualified candidates from running for office.
Financial disclosures got the most discussion time in open meeting. For example, the proposal as it’s written will expand what officials should disclose about interest in corporations or partnerships.
Elissa Levan, city attorney, discussed revising a section about gifts so it no longer required them to disclose gifts of a personal nature from family members.
The city’s director of human resources and housing will be included in the list of department heads who must make some disclosures.
Council members discussed whether there should be a requirement to not only disclose, but recuse one’s self from voting on budget items. Examples were brought up of a council member who coaches a recreational team or volunteers with a fire company, and whether they should have to recuse themselves from voting on budget items that concerned recreation and parks or the city’s contribution to the fire company.
Council members said it would be essential for them to have access to a clear list of all the entities with which the city has done business.
At the close of the discussion, Councilman Kevin Dayhoff said he believes some parts of the draft ethics ordinance might exceed the state’s requirements.
The full audio of the discussion will be posted on westminstermd.gov alongside the meeting’s agenda.
This piece of law hasn’t been officially introduced, and the timeline will depend on when the State Ethics Commission responds to the draft the city sent to them. This could be as early as March.
Carroll County Breaking News
The city’s Recreation and Parks Department will once again partner with MissionTix to handle some of their downtown “stroll” events, which draw thousands.
MissionTix will provide staffing, equipment, and an online platform to sell and check tickets. The contract covers the Westminster Wine Stroll, the Westminster BBQ Stroll, and the Westminster Oyster Stroll.
The process eases demands on city staff and allows guests to purchase available tickets online right up to the start of the event. The city will pay MissionTix a portion of each ticket sold and an hourly rate for staffers at the entrances. MissionTix will contribute 10% of its service fees to the city to go toward the cost of staffing.
Under the umbrella of the city Department of Public Works, a proposal to replace three utility trucks for the Utility Maintenance Department passed unanimously, coming in about $20,000 below budget.
Director Jeff Glass said a long-term pump test taking place after the Little Pipe Creek realignment project continues to look promising. The city might be able to pump more water from that source per day, he said.
The city was hopeful that the Maryland Department of the Environment will issue its opinion on the city’s proposal for a pilot water reuse program within the week. The communications and education firm hired by the city has begun to meet with stakeholders.
The finance department and the police department are working together on details as the police department prepares for a new patrol schedule that it hopes will better align staff with the time they are in most demand.