Friday, February 29, 2008

Virginia, Maryland Contemplate Restricting Crab Harvest

Both Maryland and Virginia are seriously contemplating major restrictions on crab harvesting in the Bay, and it's not a moment too soon. Let's just hope it's not too late.

Labels: ,

Wayson's Corner Purchase Completed

Earlier in the week, the Board of Public Works approved $5.75 million in Program Open Space funds to purchase 30 acres of forested property in Wayson's Corner. The land, which is nearby the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, and was zoned to be developed as a Target-centered commercial complex, will now be preserved.


Chief Johnson Steps Down

Police Chief Joseph Johnson is leaving the Annapolis City Police Department after almost 14 years of service. While embattled at times, he has generally been well-respected. This probably won't make hiring the 20 or so officers the Department needs to get to full force any easier.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Council Votes to Approve Commercial Recycling

At last week's County Council meeting, the Council unanimously approved a move to expand recycling pick up to small businesses in the County. The plan is to have the program launched by July.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Leopold Aide Embarrasses Boss

As soon as I began the second paragraph of the Sun article, I knew exactly who was behind the Administration's request for expense reports from the State Delegation - Erik Robey. Turns out Robey, a former aide to Ron Dillon and long time Republican Party flak, put one of his underlings up to the task of making her way down to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services "to formally ask for all travel-related expenses, including lodging, meals and mileage, incurred during the 2007 annual and special sessions by the 15 delegates and five senators who represent Anne Arundel County."

Problem is, the request was NOT authorized by the County Executive. In fact, the Executive said "he was surprised and deeply concerned about the nature of the request."

There seem to be at least two possibilities here: The first, which I think is relatively unlikely, because this seems like the work of a hard core partisan, which Robey is and Leopold is not, is that Leopold put Robey and the underling up to the whole thing and is now content to let them take the fall.

The second, and more likely, option is that Robey contrived this as a way to garner ammunition for the 2010 elections, using the authority of his boss' office to make the request.

If the latter is true, and Robey has smeared the Executive's name, and the Administration's capacity to get assistance from the local delegation for his personal ends, my guess is the Executive will find a very special place in the bureaucracy for him. Mail room attendant has a nice ring to it.


Magothy in Decline

In what appears to be a pretty consistent trend, the health of the Magothy River declined last year, according to the just released State of the Magothy Report Card. Among the worst performing indicators was underwater grasses, which experienced a 165 acre drop from 2006.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A "Work Group"? Uh oh.

Apparently overwhelmed by having to make a decision where the facts are lining up against their impulses, the County Council last night announced that, rather than hire another expert to study the impact fee issue, they will form a "work group."

What's wrong with a "work group", you might ask? Well, according to Cathy Vitale, Council Chair, the group will be comprised of approximately 10 people representing "a broad spectrum of interests." That "broad spectrum" will no doubt include individuals from the construction, development, and business communities. In other words, the Council is inviting the foxes to take up guard of the henhouse.

A sham "work group" was set up when the impact fees were last revised in 2000, and not surprisingly, the group's recommendation was well below where the County consultant had pegged a full cost recovery fee.

By taking this step, the Council is passing the buck, making what is essentially a science based decision (i.e., what is the real cost of new development?) into a political one (i.e., how much is the development community going to allow us to raise this fee?).

Labels: ,

Frederick County Adopts Moratorium

Fed up with new development outstripping its infrastructure, the Frederick County Commissioners have put a 2-year moratorium on some new construction in unincorporated portions of the County.

Something for Anne Arundel's developers to keep in mind when cry foul about finally having to pay their fair share.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Examiner Laments Poor Public Turnout on Impact Fees

By all accounts the last Council hearing on impact fee increases was packed with shills for the development industry. Housebuilders, realtors, and business interests enumerated the reasons why it's a "bad idea" to make new growth pay its own way. Testimony was so one-sided, it began to concern the press.

There is a second hearing this evening, 7pm in the Council chambers. It's important for the public to turn out in force in support of the County Executive's proposed impact fee increase, so that the discussion isn't driven by those who have a financial stake in forcing existing taxpayers to shoulder the burden for new development.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 18, 2008

Leopold Appeals to Legislature

Sunday's Sun includes a list of the items that the County Executive is hoping to procure during the 2008 legislative session. Included are:

  • Allowing the County to re-coup the $100,000 the Health Department spent in testing well for fly ash contamination from the $1 million fine MDE levied on Constellation and the Reliable Mining operation.
  • Charging more money for restaurant health inspection permits.
  • Collecting additional funds from the State to help provide bonuses for science/math/engineering teachers.
  • Allowing detention facilities to administer polygraph tests to new hires.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wishing Rock

Everyone knows about Anne Arundel County's great rivers and Bay frontage, but there are many other sites of interest that many people, including quite a few who have lived here for decades, aren't aware of.

This is the first in an occasional series of pieces that I will write about these special places.

In Pasadena, in the ever shrinking swath of green space between Route 100 and Ritchie Highway, lies one of the few, true stone outcroppings in the County. At the top of a hill, behind a small industrial park, off Wishing Rock Road, lies the Magothy Quartzite Quarry, also known as "Wishing Rock."

All of Anne Arundel County lies in what is known as the western coastal plain, basically, the last bit of land sloping down from the piedmont (literally, the "feet of the mountains") into the Bay. Almost all of the soils here are made up of sand and gravel, washed down from the mountains, and clay. Sandstone, a sedimentary rock formed by concretized sand and pebbles, and heavy in iron, occurs in the soil, particularly in the vicinity of the Magothy River. But, these hulking masses of quartzite above the ground are unique.

Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the site is believed to have been a quarry site for Native Americans (around 5000 BC), looking to fashion spear or cutting blades, as stone sufficient to hold an edge was very scarce locally. In more recent times, a previous owner of the site actually quarried some of the sand and gravel from the site, but that appears to have desisted.

As well as having been disturbed by mining, the site has apparently been a popular hang out for teens as many of the stones have been tagged with spray paint and beer cans litter some of the site. The stones have even gathered something of a cult following.

Nonetheless, the monoliths, situated in a dense sylvan setting can also be a place for reflection and quiet thought. The site is located on private property, and is not currently accessible to the public.

There are actually several stones at the site.

Many of the stones are now covered with graffiti


State of the Magothy Presentation

It's that time of year when each of the river organizations is releasing its State of the River report. The Magothy is no exception. The announcement is below:

2008 State of the Magothy River Meeting

Do you, family, or friends enjoy spending time on the Magothy River? Would you like to find out how you can help to protect and restore this precious resource? Would you like to hear about all of the great things happening on your river?

The Magothy River Association will hold its sixth annual “State of the Magothy River” presentation on Wednesday, February 20, 2008, starting at 7:00 PM. The meeting will feature the annual Magothy River Index (with a new format this year) and a Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail overview.

Scheduled speakers:
1) 2007 Magothy River Index. Prepared by Dr. Peter Bergstrom, NOAA and MRA. (Produced each year since 2003)
2) Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail overview - Sarah Bransom, National Park Service
3) MRA Creek Watchers – Carl Treff, MRA Volunteer Coordinator
4) Update on the Magothy River Oyster Plan – Dick Carey, MRA Dive Coordinator/Dive Safety Officer

1. Friends of Dobbins Island
2. Bayland Consultants, Mill & Dividing Creek Study
3. Severna Park Watershed Action Group display on North Cypress Branch
4. Department of Natural Resources-Natural Resources Police – Vessel Management Plan & Boating Safety
5. National Aquarium in Baltimore
6. Magothy River Land Trust – Conservation Easements in the Magothy Watershed
7. MRA Team Diver Poster: “Scientific Divers of the Magothy River for Boating and Diver Safety."
8. MRA – Oyster Reefs in the Magothy River
9. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Doors and displays open at 6:30. Program to start at 7:00. Following the presentations, there will be refreshments and time to visit the displays and chat with watershed residents and the experts. Are you interested in clean water, healthy fish, living oyster reefs and limiting suburban effects on the Magothy? Come and see how you can help!

Date: Wednesday February 20, 2008
Place: Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, West Campus
Cade (Fine Arts) 219 (use Parking Lot F, closest to Ritchie)
directions at:
Doors open 6:30 P.M., program 7:00-9:00 PM
Refreshments will be served
For Information call: Paul Spadaro, President of Magothy River Association, 410-647-8772, email:, or visit our web page:
In case of inclement weather, if the college is closed, the program is postponed. College closings are announced on WNAV radio (1430 AM) and on the college web site,

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Severn River Report Released

Today's Post reports on the recent release of the Severn Riverkeeper's state of the River report. Bad news, particularly for the yellow perch.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Edgewater K-Mart Bombed?

According to the County Police Report dated February 11th, two white males and a white female placed a small device on one of the shelves in the back of the K-Mart in Edgewater, which shortly thereafter exploded.

The store was evacuated and minor damage to merchandise occurred. The suspects were not located.

While this could have been nothing more than a dangerous prank, it could also be something more nefarious. What if it was a practice run for something more deadly?


Middlebrooks Wises Up...Sort of

A curious thing happened on the way to the Council, it appears Ed Middlebrooks finally got a clue. During the discussions, late last year, about a dedicated fund for stormwater repairs, certain "anti-tax" Republicans like Ed Middlebrooks asked, "why not a dedicated fund for schools, or other infrastructure?" The question seems to have sparked a rare good idea from the Councilman.

Early last week, he sponsored a resolution, which passed the Council, asking the County Legislative Delegation to give the County the capacity to raise the transfer tax on the sale of homes to collect additional funds for school maintenance and other infrastructure backlogs.

It turns out, however, that the County Executive and most of the County Delegation oppose the increase and are unlikely to push the State enabling legislation.

The Executive's chief objection is that it would be better to achieve these ends by raising the impact fees. The problem is, impact fees can't be used for routine maintenance, but must instead be used to pay for expansion of existing facilities.

The proper solution involves compromise on each side, the Council owes it to the citizens of the County to hike the impact fees to 100% of cost, regardless of the whinery of the development community, and the Executive needs to recognize that the $1.5 billion backlog of school maintenance can't be dealt with through impact fees, and needs a steady funding stream of its own.

The most beautiful aspect of the proposals is that increases in both are unlikely to have much impact on the pocketbooks of existing residents and put the County on a much more sound fiscal footing for decades to come.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

County Buckles on Church Case

Pieces in the Sun and Capital re-count how, apparently, Riverdale Baptist Church, put Anne Arundel County over a barrel regarding the development of their mega-church in Lothian. The deal, struck between the County attorney and the Church, would require:

• The County Council must remove zoning rules such as those that block the building of a private school with fewer than 125 parking spaces on a scenic or historic road.

• Approval of building and grading permits for a two-story classroom that doesn't exceed 40,000 square feet; an entrance road from Wrighton Road; and two private fields.

• Approval by the county Health Department of septic and storm-water management facilities for the church and the school buildings.

• Permission to subdivide the tract to create three residential lots.

Sounds to me like the County is giving up the farm on this one.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Last Year's Crab Harvest Miserable

According to DNR officials, last year's crab harvest is the second lowest in 30 years, about 22 million pounds.

Can anyone say "moratorium?"

Labels: ,

Innocent Victims of the War on (Some) Drugs

Sunday's Capital exposed a heartbreaking injustice going on at Animal Control Centers across the state. As a result of state controlled substance laws and a federal rule regulating control of ketamine, a narcotic used in euthanizing animals, Animal Control Centers, like the one in Anne Arundel County, are having to use a haphazard cocktail of less powerful drugs to put animals down.

The weaker drugs "can leave animals convulsing and seemingly conscious as they die." As one might expect, this has had significant negative consequences for employee morale and has even led animal control to stop "allowing owners to watch sick or old pets be put to sleep because the animals could jolt and appear conscious as they slipped into death." All this is to say nothing of the needless pain being inflicted on these poor animals, allegedly under the guise of keeping a "date rape drug" out of the hands of hoodlums.

The situation has also proven dangerous to the Animal Control Officers. Rather than subduing rabid or aggressive animals with drugs, they have had to resort to physical means, such as a control stick, to pacify the animals. This puts both the officers and animals at increased risk of injury.

I would like to implore the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to grant County animal shelters, even those without full-time veterinary staff (like Anne Arundel's) to have access to the narcotics that they need to do their job properly. In the meantime, if there is a way for private practice vets to step up and fill the gap temporarily, it would be a much needed community service.