Anne Arundel council adds slavery statement to GDP, passes dozens of amendments

Hoping to acknowledge a history of racism in land-use decisions, Anne Arundel County’s long-term development plan will now include specific a reference to slavery and its legacy.

The County Council voted 6-1 for including the language in an updated equity statement for the new General Development Plan, one of more than 40 amendments approved Monday, and one more step toward final approval of the plan.


Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, D-Annapolis, introduced the slavery language after a request from an Arnold resident, the county NAACP and the Caucus of African-American Leaders.

While the slavery language does not require specific steps, Rodvien called it an important step to make sure guiding document of county planning considers the context of historic slavery in the county and how government-supported actions over decades helped white families at the expense of Black families and others.


The updated equity statement now includes specific references to slavery and improving access to those traditionally denied it: “This framework also serves to overcome the many problems we continue to experience due to our history of slavery and federally financed segregated living patterns.”

“I believe it is the right thing to do,” Rodvien said.

Debate on the amendment was short. Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, cast the lone vote against the amendment.

The GDP, often called Plan 2040, is a forward-looking document that serves as a guide for the next two decades of development within the county. While it doesn’t dictate policy, it is used to guide how that policy is created until the plan is updated again in eight years.

The language for this amendment was suggested by Arnold resident Thornell Jones, who worked alongside the NAACP and the Caucus of African-American Leaders to provide updated language. He has encouraged council members to reflect on the county’s racist history and provide that context within the General Development Plan itself.

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Jones said he didn’t the existing equity statement reflected the county motto chosen by County Executive Steuart Pittman: “The best place for all.” The Pittman administration supported Rodvien’s amendment.

The council spent most of its six-hour meeting discussing and debating these amendments. The meeting went on past midnight, barring votes on some later agenda items under current meeting rules. Councilmembers continued hearings until about 1 a.m.

The meeting marked the final opportunity the council had to amend the General Development Plan. It now requires a final vote from the body at its May 3 meeting.


The amendments included more small land-use updates, more diversity goals and other changes. One such adopted amendment requires Stakeholder Advisory Committees to reflect the “ethnic and minority diversity of the residents of each region that committee represents.” Those committees will be formed as part of the regional planning process, which follows the adoption of the plan.

An amendment from Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, requires the county to provide a list of consistency updates. Those updates will be reviewed by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee and mapped within each region plan.

Haire said the county had not provided enough clarity on those updates within the plan. Her amendment mandates the consistency updates be posted online for public viewing.

County officials urged residents to remember approval of the General Development Plan does not immediately change zoning or other regulations. The plan is a guiding document that will inform the regional plans as well as future comprehensive rezoning legislation.