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Anne Arundel County Council passes winery and brewery roads bill, expands forest conservation grandfathering clause

The Anne Arundel County Council passed legislation Monday updating zoning rules for breweries and wineries, expanding forest conservation law grandfathering rules and continuing the debate on changes to community-based assisted living laws.

While Monday’s meeting was quiet, the council will soon begin making amendments to the county’s budget in earnest. The council will meet Friday to discuss the county’s auditor’s recommendations. The meeting will take place online at 9 a.m.

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Breweries and wineries

A bill from Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, that would regulate which types of roads are allowed at farm breweries and wineries in the county was passed by the county council. It brings the regulation for both types of establishments into alignment and requires “access from a private road if access from a public road is not feasible and, for a shared private road, the applicant submits affidavits of consent and maintenance agreements from those who share the road,” according to the bill’s summary.

County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration did not take a position on the bill out of what they called “an abundance of caution” because Pittman’s family owns a winery. Pittman has an interest in a family land trust which the winery is located on.

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Forest conservation

A bill from Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, that would broaden a grandfathering provision in the county’s forest conservation law also passed Monday. The legislation expands the provision from just grandfathering special exceptions approved by a certain date to grandfathering all applications that are associated with special exceptions.

In other business, the council passed a bill that establishes a community revitalization district in the Marley area of Glen Burnie. They also decided to delay a bill pertaining to the county code of ethics, and defeated a bill related to short term rentals taxation. The council also named Anne Arundel County Public School teacher Emily Davis as Teacher of the Year. Davis teaches English at Brooklyn Park Middle School.

Community-based assisted living

The Anne Arundel County Council further debated a controversial bill that would limit where community-based assisted living facilities and group homes of more than nine people could operate in the county — an effort to eliminate the development of campus-like clusters of facilities in residential neighborhoods — in video meeting Monday night.

The bill, which solicited 83 submissions of written testimony in its first hearing, drew comments this week from 14 residents — 12 of whom were in support of the bill.

Sponsored by Volke, the bill would establish categories for community-based living facilities — residential houses that are used for assisted living or other group home purposes — based on the number of beds they have. It would also prevent a single owner from establishing two facilities next to each other in a neighborhood if they had between nine and 16 beds and prohibit any community-based facility from operating with more than 16 beds.

Facilities with fewer than eight beds would not be limited at all. They could continue to be established in residential neighborhoods and next door to each other if an owner wished to do that.

The council discussed several amendments, including one eliminating addictions recovery homes from the bill entirely after many community members said the bill would adversely impact the recovery community. Another would add a grandfathering clause to the bill for grading and building permits and zoning certificates. Both were successful.

Much of the opposing testimony at the bill’s first hearing came from members of the recovery community — residents who spoke of the way residential recovery homes supported their recovery from addiction and expressed concerns that the regulation of recovery homes in the bill might prompt the establishment of uncertified recovery homes in the county.

Volke brought the amendment but said he plans to meet with members of the recovery community in a workgroup, and bring forth a “standalone bill” that will address the same concern of campus-like clusters of community-based facilities.

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