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On the agenda for March 7

The City Council introduced a string of feel-good bills and resolutions at the March 7 meeting. They included one that would declare Tuesday, March 8, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Day. Mitchell, a local civil rights activist, was born 100 years ago that day. Other resolutions included one in support of the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, one in celebration of Women’s History Month, and one “joining the global celebration” of International Women’s Day. The Council also introduced several resolutions voicing support for state legislation, including for a bill that would establish a state board of naturopathic medicine, for a bill that tightens the requirements for lead paint dust testing, and for a bill that seeks to establish disturbing the peace as a breach of lease that would allow eviction within 14 days’ notice.

Bill 11-0658 Traffic Mitigation - Establishing Traffic-Mitigation Zones

Would create traffic-mitigation zones in already congested areas.

The Read: This bill would create up to five traffic-management areas in congested sections of downtown, Southeast, and South Baltimore, within which developers would have to pay a traffic-mitigation fee. Currently, a traffic impact study is conducted for every proposed development, regardless of location. That process, according to Department of Transportation spokesperson Adrienne Barnes, “is redundant for areas of higher residential and commercial growth.” If the bill is approved, developers who choose to build within a traffic-management area would pay a fee instead of undergoing a traffic impact study. The Planning Commission would be responsible for coming up with a traffic-management plan for each zone and fees would be adopted by the Board of Estimates.

Bills 11-0659, 11-0660, 11-0661, 11-0662, 11-0663

This collection of bills—all supplementary federal fund appropriations—would allow the city’s Department of General Services to use grants it has received from the federal government. (City Council approval is required.) The funds—which total more than $550,000—would be used to jump-start the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program, support energy efficiency and conservation programs serving low-to-moderate-income residents, and install solar energy systems on selected city buildings.

Bill 11-0664 Health Department - Food Service Facilities - Approval of Fees

Would change the fees for some Health Department services related to food.

The Read: The city’s Board of Estimates recently approved a range of fee increases at several city agencies, designed to bring in an estimated $833,000. This particular bill would institute a fee of $75 for a health plan review for a new food establishment and raise the fee for a “high risk food dealer permit” (i.e., a permit for a food establishment the department deems at higher risk for foodborne illness, like those that prepare food a day or more before serving it) to $520, an increase of $70. Permit fees for food establishments deemed moderately risky (those that serve food soon after cooking) or low risk (generally those that serve prepackaged food), on the other hand, would drop, by $65 and $120, respectively. The fee for reinspection would jump from $100 to $150 and a fee of $100 would be instituted for the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan (HACCP), a written statement on how an operation plans to avoid foodborne illness.

Bill 11-0665 Planning Department - Subdivision Review - Approval of Fees

Would raise the fees for some Planning Department services related to subdivisions.

The Read: This bill is another of the city’s attempts to raise funds by increasing fees. It would increase the amount the Planning Department charges to review commercial major subdivision plans. The minimum cost for such a review would go up from $500 to $750, and the maximum would go from $2,000 to $3,000. Fees for reviews of a residential major subdivision plan would also go up, with the minimum fee jumping from $275 to $350, and the maximum fee going from $1,000 to $2,000.

Bill 11-0666 Eviction Chattels - Foreclosure Chattels

Would amend the rules governing how those who are evicted or foreclosed upon are notified.

The Read: Under the bill, landlords and foreclosure purchasers would no longer be required to use certified mail when notifying an occupant of dispossession. However, if the sheriff determined that the occupant was not properly notified, the writ of possession would be vacated. In other words, a landlord or foreclosure purchaser who failed to properly notify an occupant would have to seek another order from the court to proceed with an eviction/foreclosure.

Bill 11-0667 Health - Animal Control and Protection

Would tighten the requirements for obtaining a license to own an animal, or a license to operate a kennel or other animal facility.

The Read: This bill, introduced by councilmembers James Kraft (D-1st District) and Robert Curran (D-3rd District), comes as a slew of animal cruelty bills is making its way through state and local legislative channels. This one would require anyone applying for a license to own a dog or cat—theoretically everyone who owns a dog or cat in the city—to sign an affidavit stating that no one in the household has ever been convicted of animal abuse, cruelty, or neglect. The same would apply to anyone operating or employed at an animal shelter, kennel, or clinic.

Bill 11-0668 Charter Amendment - Property Tax Limitations

Bill 11-0669 Taxes - Homestead Credit Percentage

The Read: This set of bills, introduced by Councilmember Carl Stokes (D-12th District), commanded most of the attention at Monday’s meeting. Stokes, who held a press conference on the subject before the meeting, is proposing slashing property taxes in half over the next five years. He would pay for the loss in revenue partly by increasing the cap on the homestead tax credit, which limits property tax increases on primary residences. “I ask that my colleagues keep an open mind,” Stokes said repeatedly during the meeting. But many minds seemed already to have snapped shut. Curran pointed out that one of the biggest beneficiaries of a tax cut would be BGE, not individual residents. Councilmember William Cole (D-11th District) also stood to voice his disapproval. And Councilmember Nick D’Adamo Jr. (D-2nd District) wasn’t shy about his opinion. He leaned over to a group of reporters. “Do you believe in the tooth fairy?” he said. “Because Carl Stokes, he’s the tooth fairy.”

Bill 11-0671 Illegal Dumping - Penalties - Enforcement

Would increase the fines for illegal dumping.

The Read: “My legislation will allow for tougher penalties that will hit these lawbreakers where it hurts the most—in their wallets,” Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D), who introduced the bill, said. The bill would increase the fines for illegally dumping smaller, lighter objects from $150 to $500. For objects weighing more than 25 pounds and measuring more than 10 cubic feet, the fine would jump from $250 to $1,000. The legislation would also allow the city to seek restitution from those using a rented vehicle to illegally dump.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 5 p.m.

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