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Anne Arundel council to discuss nuisance properties, agritourism regulation, and a law enforcement support resolution

Two weeks after one of the shortest meetings in the calendar year, the Anne Arundel County Council will tackle a lengthy agenda Monday night, featuring discussions on enforcement for nuisance properties, agritourism, and support for law enforcement, among other legislation.

The council will also consider legislation related to the Animal Control Agency’s name, special community benefit districts, data storage centers, wastewater systems, and supplementary budget appropriations. A bill related to public ethics and the boundaries of constituent services by county councilmembers is likely to be held.

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The body will convene remotely via Zoom at 6 p.m. Monday, and the meeting can be streamed live on local television stations, including Channel 38 for Verizon, 98 for Comcast and Broadstripe, 498 for HD Broadstripe, 998 for HD Comcast and 1962 for HD Verizon. It can also be streamed online through Arundel TV Live, and residents without access to the internet can listen to the meeting by calling +1 301 715 8592 and entering meeting ID 937 4426 9850 and passcode 77289196.

The full agenda can be viewed online at https://www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council/index.html.

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Agritourism

Early in the night, the council will consider more amendments to Bill 69-20, which would change how agritourism events are regulated at county farms. The bill changes the maximum number of special events per year, and in most cases, would limit capacity based on the acreage of the site. Bill 69-20 also would expand the type of events allowed to include “historical and cultural” events. The bill adds a definition for “Farm or Agricultural Heritage Site Special Events” to include parties, receptions and weddings.

The bill was introduced on Sept. 8 and must be passed before Dec. 12, or it expires. It was amended at both meetings in October and was delayed at the Nov. 2 meeting so that more work could be done on it. The bill was introduced with a sister bill, which changed the way breweries, wineries and other alcohol production facilities are referred to and regulated in the code related to how these facilities are taxed. Bill 68-20 passed at the first meeting in October.

Nuisance properties

The council will also hear Bill 94-20, which would define a public nuisance as any property where there have been more than five arrests for an assignation, lewdness, prostitution, human trafficking, certain drug-related crimes, illegal gambling or other crimes, including violence, in any 30 day period.

The bill asserts that being a public nuisance is prohibited, and the county can take legal action against these properties, including through civil charges and fines. Sponsored by Councilman Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, the bill would give the county the option to pursue these measures but not require it.

Pruski said this is meant to target repeat, “high-end crime," not “someone who steals a candy bar or gets in a fight.”

He pointed to incidents at county motels over the past few years as examples of what might be considered nuisance properties.

Mark Lowe, president of the Russet Homeowner Association, said his community backs up to Route 198 and has been dealing with the effects of what he described as nuisance properties there for at least a decade. Without a physical barrier between some properties and the Russet community, Lowe said there are frequent petty crime instances, and the properties are aesthetically displeasing, often with overflowing dumpsters and abandoned cars.

He said the bill would incentivize businesses to behave better and would create an opportunity for businesses that are not nuisance properties but are suffering due to their close proximity. If the enforcement is effective, he said it would improve the safety of the community.

Pruski intends to introduce an amendment that would require police to notify the nuisance properties of their status.

Government Affairs Officer Pete Baron said the administration is generally supportive of the bill.

Law enforcement support

The council will also consider a nonbinding resolution in support of local law enforcement. The resolution was introduced at the Nov. 2 meeting by Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, after a request from Sheriff Jim Fredericks, also a Republican.

The sheriff told The Capital he pushed for the resolution after a recent video of Anne Arundel County police officers forcibly arresting a young Black man went viral on social media. He felt the response was unfair and wanted to underscore support for law enforcement.

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“In general, what people don’t see or don’t want to see is that the protection of the communities by law enforcement can sometimes be an ugly business…” he said. “You have to watch both sides of those videos.”

Fredericks acknowledged there are bad cops — just a few of them, he says — whose actions reflect negatively on the profession and damages police trust. But he described his push for the resolution as an “innocuous” gesture to offer support to officers and deputies who haven’t felt much of it lately.

Though nonbinding resolutions are often heard and voted on on the day they are introduced, the council voted along party lines to hold this resolution — opting to let the public weigh-in.

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