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Howard County Council requires gender-inclusive single-user restrooms, passes other legislation

At its monthly legislative session Monday night, the Howard County Council unanimously approved legislation requiring gender-inclusive single-user restrooms, legislation requiring developers to provide a certain amount of moderate-income housing in transit-oriented development, and legislation requiring financial disclosures related to zoning matters.

The council acted on a large collection of bills it had considered during March.

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Gender-inclusive restrooms

Legislation to require certain single-user restrooms in Howard to be available to all passed unanimously.

The legislation, introduced by Council Member Christiana Mercer Rigby, also requires that single-user restrooms include gender-inclusive signage to identify the restroom. Signage should not include a specific gender and could simply be “Restroom,” “Bathroom” or symbols indicating a restroom’s availability.

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During her voting remarks, Rigby called it “a small but significant change.” She said the legislation makes everyone feel safer, including those with families and those with disabilities looking for single-user restrooms. The bill does not apply to private restrooms in homes, hospitals or hotels/motels.

Originally the legislation was written to exclude buildings owned or occupied by the county, but during the vote, a majority of council members voted in favor of an amendment that deleted that exclusion.

Moderate-income housing

Legislation to require a certain amount of moderate-income housing units be built on the site of transit-oriented development also passed unanimously. Transit-oriented development refers to a type of urban development that puts more residential, business and recreational spaces within walking distance of public transportation.

This legislation will amend a previous bill that allows structure within 750 feet of a MARC station platform to meet certain height requirements relating to the transit-oriented development, which is set to become effective Tuesday.

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The legislation, introduced by Rigby and Council Member Deb Jung, requires developers of transit-oriented developments to provide 15% of the moderate-income housing units, without using alternative compliance or optional methods.

Zoning applications

County Council Chair Liz Walsh introduced legislation to stop certain zoning applications while a new general plan was in process and to require a specified report to disclose certain contributions and business relationships related to zoning matters, in compliance with Maryland Public Ethics Law.

While the legislation passed unanimously, an amendment adoption process eliminated the part of the bill that would have prohibited certain zoning applications while the general plan is in process.

“I think not passing [this bill] provides the potential for certain parties to circumvent and undermine the planning process for the general plan. I do think we have seen that in the last year,” said Jung, who co-sponsored the legislation. “I think that we really have to carefully contemplate how we’re going to move forward.”

Private animal shelters

Previously tabled legislation was moved off the tabled and voted on as well Monday.

A bill introduced on behalf of County Executive Calvin Ball requiring a license for private animal shelters passed unanimously. After being introduced at the beginning of the year, and members of the Howard community testifying in opposition to some of the language, five amendments were introduced and four passed unanimously to make clear the regulations and exemptions of the legislation and address community concerns.

Complementary legislation also passed unanimously Monday, which approved a nonrefundable application fee and license fee for an annual private animal shelter license.

Landlords, tenants

Also moved off the table was a bill introduced by Council Member David Yungmann to amend landlord-tenant relations in Howard.

Yungmann’s legislation alters when tenants can terminate leases and who pays court costs under specific circumstances. With this legislation, landlords also do not need to show the actual dwelling unit to potential tenants. The legislation passed 4-1, with Walsh voting against.

Tabled bills

The first legislation to be co-sponsored by all five members of the council, a property tax credit for seniors and retired military personnel, was tabled. The council will have the option of voting on it next month.

Upcoming

Soon the council’s agenda will fill with budget hearings for the fiscal 2022 budget. Ball released the capital budget last week, and his operating budget is set to be released April 19. The council will vote on the budgets May 26.

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