Ellicott City residents and shop owners are supporting a proposed County Council bill to place a yearlong freeze on development in the Tiber River watershed that some have blamed for worsening flooding in recent years.
At a Monday night hearing, the council was urged to place longer and larger restrictions on development. Some people wore T-shirts and had signs that read “Protect Community,” the words in a logo scrawled under a rain-soaked umbrella.
The bill was introduced last month by Ellicott City Democrat Jon Weinstein in response to the deadly May 27 flood in historic Ellicott City that damaged some shops and businesses for the second time in less than two years.
The moratorium is meant to give the county time to study hydraulic issues, stormwater management, zoning regulations and the impact of past and future developments on the watershed, including public facilities such as roads, schools and government facilities.
The Howard County councilman who represents Ellicott City said he plans to introduce emergency legislation next month to halt for a year the issuance of building permits in the watershed of the Patapsco River tributary that has flooded the historical mill town twice in the last two years.
At Monday’s meeting, residents including Melissa Metz asked the council to expand the bill to include other watersheds, such as the nearby Plumtree watershed, to help protect the Valley Meade neighborhood, which many say has also become increasingly susceptible to flooding.
Bill Withers, who lives in the historic district, testified that the bill needs to be ironclad and stop development.
“When it floods, people die,” he said. “The proof is not in the pudding, the proof is in the waivers. If you can be very specific about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, I think that’ll give this teeth moving forward.”
Council members responded to residents’ testimony saying they were open to considering changes and amendments, which will be discussed next Monday, and the council will also take more public comments next week.
The testimony came hours after flood recovery manager Steve Watts announced a local state of emergency would be lifted on Friday, days earlier than expected, allowing a free flow of traffic on Main Street.