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Board of Elections Nixes Zoning Referendum

A decision released Tuesday said the opponents of zoning issues in two council districts had enough signatures but ruled the petitions were legally deficient.

UPDATED (9:23 p.m.)—The Baltimore County Board of Elections ruled that petitions to referendum zoning decisions in two council districts will not be placed on the 2014 ballot.

Baltimore County Elections Director Katie Brown wrote in a decision issued Tuesday afternoon that while opponents had collected the required number of signatures, the petitions were legally deficient.

Andrew Bailey, an attorney for the county Board of Elections, reviewed five challenges to the petition filed by attorneys representing Greenberg Gibbons, the developer of the proposed Foundry Row project on the grounds of the old Solo Cup factory.

"I believe that the form of the petition, as circulated to potential signers, was insufficient to alert them to what exactly they were being asked to petition to a vote," wrote Bailey.

Bailey ultimately sided with County Attorney Michael Field who, in a letter, challenged the referendum effort on the basis that the petitioners failed to provide voters copies of the maps of the 78 zoning issues covered in the bills.

David S. Brown Enterprises and The Cordish Companies are seeking to overturn bills that rezoned nearby properties that could be redeveloped and ultimately compete with their projects.

Brown is the developer of Metro Centre at Owings Mills which is near the former Solo Cup plant that is to be redeveloped into a shopping center called Foundry Row. That project would feature a Wegman's grocery store as its anchor.

In Middle River, Cordish is opposing the redevelopment of the Middle River Depot. The depot, if redeveloped, could result in Walmart leaving its current location in the Carroll Island Shopping Center and moving to the new depot location, Cordish said in July.

Cordish owns the Carroll Island Shopping Center.

No county law, much less a zoning bill, has ever been petitioned to referendum in Baltimore County.

The to collect 170,000 signatures to place the two bills on the 2014 ballot.

Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who represents the district where the Solo Cup property is located, said the board's decision was correct.

"How can you explain this complicated bill to someone in a parking lot in five minutes or less?" Almond said. "You just can't do it."

Stuart Kaplow, an attorney representing the developers challenging the zoning bills, said the board of elections misinterpreted the law.

"The insistence that the County Charter some how requires petitioners to do what is not only impossible to do but is also contrary to state law is wrong," Kaplow said. "Claiming 78 pages of zoning maps should have been attached to the petition is clearly wrong."

Kaplow said his clients are likely to file for a judicial review of the board's decision in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

That challenge must be filed within the next 90 days.

Ruth Goldstein, a coordinator and founding member of Don't Sign it, said a successful petition effort would circumvent the county's quadrennial rezoning process.

"This is the way it's always been done," said Goldstein, whose group opposed the petition drive. "There was a very open, public process for people to voice their opinions and people overwhelmingly voiced their support for this."

One opponent of the Solo Cup project called the board's decision "disappointing but not surprising."

"The fix was in from the beginning," said Shirley Supik, a member and leader in the group Say No to Solo. "The fight was really over openness in government and fairness to the people.

"Once again, the voice of the people will not be heard," Supik said. "We collected 170,000 signatures from county voters and that tells me the people want to be heard."

Shirley Supik February 06, 2013 at 09:16 PM
I stood in line for 5 hours to vote last year and I would gladly wade through as many zoning issues (or any other issues) that need be to make sure the right decisions were made. When you vote someone in, your duty does not stop there. You must watch over them to make sure they are making the right decisions for everyone, and when they are not, there has to be some process to stop them. As we have all seen in the past, by the time corruption is discovered, the damage is done. That is why, if we the citizens are doing our job, we can stop the process before the damage is done. The decision by the Election Board only enforces the reason for the referendum. The CZMP is broken and Baltimore County doesn't want it fixed. It is ludicrous to think that 170,000 signers were dupped, misled, hypnotized or mesmerized into signing. Every community I visited from Catonsville to Dundalk was screaming that the communities were not being considered in the CZMP and were asking if we couldn't start a referendum for them in their area. If the people had had their way, every CZMP decision across Baltimore County in all the districts, would have stopped. The people are sick of it and that is why 170,000 people all across Baltimore County signed the referendum.
Chuck Burton February 06, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Remember that Mrs. Supik is the person who led the group in favor of Mrs. Brown and Cordish and the Owings Mills Mall owners. Not exactly a disinterested person, hmmm?
Tom Hope February 06, 2013 at 11:05 PM
I'm sure his tenant Sen. Bobby Zirkin has nice things to say about him.
Tom Hope February 06, 2013 at 11:23 PM
Shirley, Having been approached several times by the petition I can speak to the information given when they asked me to sign. The people were uninformed on what the petition was actually for and what the referendum truly would address. As for taking it to Catonsville, Dundalk and various other communities, I ask you what do they have to do with a zoning issue in Owings Mills. You sold this to them with the scare tactic that a zoning issue could come to their community and if they didn't stand up and sign for this one you wouldn't be able to help them with their community zoning issues. Effective in getting 170,000 signatures but legally deficient to represent the affected communities. I have heard you present your side and have found you don't let relevant facts and truths get in the way of your objective.
Big T. February 06, 2013 at 11:35 PM
As far as the comment reguarding some council members going with the " Flow" I must agree. When zoning issues were going on in Perry Hall no one on the council spoke up as to the legallity of what was going on. Instead they did the, buddy needs a favor, deed by sitting back and giving the votes needed for this to happen. Not one member questioned this action or the outcome of it. Maybe on the next election we should vote in new persons instead of ones used to lying to the public.
Karl February 07, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Regardless of the issue, petitioning is legal. The county has admitted there are enough signatures. Signing a petition without understanding it is not a requirement. People vote for candidates and bond issues without understanding them. Should we invalidate their votes too?
rod hart February 07, 2013 at 02:51 AM
I disagree. The folks opposing the pertition still do not understand what happened. The opposition to the Board decision was significant, the people's petition is now being ignored, what next. I say it is time to vote THEM all out of office. If we can't get to the bad guys, vote the folks who appoint them out of office.
rod hart February 07, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Give them Hell Shirley! The more this stuff is expose the greater the chance voters will fulfill their obligation to cleanup and protect our form of government. The Zoning process in Baltimore County is just plain corrupt and it has been that way for years. Wake up people.....
rod hart February 07, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Karl, You are right on. Half the folks who voted in the last Presidential election still do not have a clue what they were voting for. Some political groups have actually prospered by creating a smoke screen to hide their deeds. Do we negate those elections?
Chuck Burton February 07, 2013 at 03:06 PM
You have to remember that ALL politicians are liars - they can't get elected without lieing through their teeth. The thing is, we the people chose a system of liars instead of an autocracy, but we got an oligarchy of liars instead. The only recourse we have is to vote out one bunch of liars and vote in another bunch.
Shirley Supik February 07, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Mr. Hope, Quite trying to make this only about Owings Mills and Dundalk. This referendum is about the entire county and the lack of community caring exhibited by our elected officials. This is about the whole CZMP process. In every part of Baltimore County, the people feel cheated. By rights, the entire CZMP should have been stopped in its tracks whereby no new development would start until every issue was picked apart and the people were heard and taken seriously; but that would have been a real hardship for the county; so only two were picked. Now that I see what has happened, I know a referendum was the right thing to do and this new development by the Election Board really drives home the point........Baltimore County just doesn't give a damn about giving their constituents a voice in their government. They didn't care about 9500 and they don't care about 170,000.
Tom Hope February 07, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Shirley, Once again you choose to pick some facts to bolster your point and ignore others. How you pose this noble cause for the entire county while all the time campaigning with misleading information to get your petition signed. If the process is broken then take appropriate measures to fix the process. Don't go to other districts to get more than 60% of the signatures from people that this rezoning decision didn't directly effect. Let's not forget how you have called for transparency in the legal process yet have refused to disclose what entities have funded " Say-No-To-Solo". I realize keeping this Owings Mills & Dudalk zoning issue about Owings Mills & Dundalk doesn't forward your agenda but don't you dare use them as a Red Herring for your personal agenda
Andrew S February 07, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Tom - the project in Owings Mills will result in the intersection of Painters Mill and Reistertown road (the worst in the State as noted by multiple politicians and the state) to be redone. The cost of that will be in the millions of dollars what will come out of all of our pockets not just those in Owings Mills. Say hello to higher taxes. Do you really want your taxes going up so that Gibbons can build his dream Mall on Reisterstown Rd. and make the gridlock of traffic even worse? Open your eyes and stop smelling the Wegmans and Gibbons coffee your drinking.
Tom Hope February 07, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Andrew, if this intersection has already been identified as one of the worst in MD by officials than it most likely is already slated for the improvements. Perhaps the development of the property could include improvements by the developer. As for paying higher taxes, that is a fact of life I deal with just by living in MD.
Chuck Burton February 07, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Andrew S, the developer, Gibbons has pledged $10 million for improvements to the intersection of Reisterstown Rd and Painters Mill, as needed to better the traffic flow into and out of Foundry Row, including a new lane on each road, on property they will contribute to the county or state, as well as a new road next to the railroad back to Walmart. Granted, this will not totally solve the problems of that intersection, but that will require a total rebuilding and widening of the entire Reisterstown Rd, which is a state responsibility.
Chuck Burton February 07, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Shirley, you may be at least partially correct in saying the whole CZMP process needs review and change. Why, then, didn't you call for a referendum to do that, instead of concentrating on two relatively minor projects, to the benefit of a couple of local developers? Hmmm?
Shirley Supik February 08, 2013 at 04:59 AM
Tom, You obviously read what you want to into things, you have nerve talking about red herrings. Didn't I just say all of Baltimore County was screaming fowl. And all of Baltimore County wanted something done about the process. And Chuck, these were hardly minor projects. In the beginning, we had considered closing down the whole county, but the idea was to make a statement, not cripple all of the county. We concentrated on the most aggregious developments and Council Members and worked on those districts. Councilmanic Courtesy must be stopped at all cost. There were a couple of small developers I spoke to in those districts and apologized for holding up their projects if it made the ballot. Their response to me was, "Go for it. You are right, the process is broken." It came as a real shock, but again let me know we were doing the right thing. And Tom, you still don't understand that my mantra has always been the same, let the people have a voice through out the county. And lastly, you won't find one person out there who will say I misled them. I wore a label saying I was a petitioner. I had a map of district 6 and district 2. And I had the CZMP listing of all the properties in those two districts. I gave the people the facts and they stood in line to sign. You can continue to spread the propapganda that we misled the signers, but you are the one who is trying to mislead, not me.
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Tom Hope February 08, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Shirley, please point out what "propaganda" I am spreading. I pointed out that majority of you petitioners were either not informed, misinformed or just making up how they were explaining the petition. The free bottles of cold water on hot days, free snow cones and the explanation that the petition was for Weagmans to be built at the Mall were all real methods used to gain the signatures that Say-No-To-Solo used. You are the head of the Say-No-To-Solo coalition so therefore you are responsible for their actions. I am not making that up. These issues were pointed out at town meetings and yet I'm sure on the specific instances that were given the signature gathered from them were still submitted. To date I have yet to see where you or Jeffrey have disclosed where the funding for Say-No-To-Solo has come from. Keep in mind Mrs. Supik that myself and the others voicing their opinions that don't agree with yours are people that live in the community. We're not from Catonsville, Parkville et al. Looking at the article released today on Patch the community organizations like ROG and others agree with the decision the Board made. Are you going to listen to those people's voices? Lastly , as for finding a single person you mislead, I and all the readers of this blog have been mislead by you. I suggest you go back and read your prior posts from when this all started. I have. In fact I am going through all of them and noting the discrepancies and propaganda. I will post my findings.
Maryland February 08, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Shirley, I know for a fact that you did not have the zoning maps with you when you were collecting signatures in front of the Safeway at Garrison Forest Plaza. In fact, you approached a friend of mine and gave him a copy of the petition (with no maps) to take home to have his roommates sign it. You then told him to just make up names if he couldn't get his roommates to sign it, and you gave him your cell phone number and said you would come pick it up if he filled the sheet. No wonder this petition was thrown out. If this was all about "fixing" the CZMP, why wasn't that your "mantra" back in May when Kimco first hired you? All you could talk about then was saving Owings Mills Mall and convincing Wegmans to go there. From the beginning, your statements have always echoed whichever developer is funding the fight at any particular time.
Chuck Burton February 08, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Shirley, according to the article above, the two developers paid $225,000, trying to derail the two projects. I presume part of that went into your pockets, and rightly so, as you did a job of work for them. But I hope you kept good records and have a good tax-man who can satisfy the IRS as to the legitimacy of it all, or you may be in for some difficulty. Good luck! But it undermines your position as a petitioner without a financial interest in the matter. You should enter politics... maybe you are.
Shirley Supik February 08, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Dear Maryland, Let's get this story straight. Your (Plant) friend Jack C. I remember very well because he begged me for a copy of the petition. I did NOT tell him to make up names. He told me he had alot of friends and roommates that did not want Foundry Row and they would be happy to sign. He did not want to see maps or hear what I had to say or even sign the petition. He just wanted a copy so he could take it back to G. Gibbons to post on his website. I know, because I watched for it to come up after Jack C. got it from me. I told him I would not give him a copy unless he signed. I did that so I would have a name to remember and yes, I gave him my real phone number, after all, he was the one lying, not me. You Mr. Maryland, sound too much like a lawyer or an employee of or member of the G.Gibbons fan club.
Maryland February 08, 2013 at 07:49 PM
So everyone is paid by developers except yourself, right?
Buck Harmon February 08, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Another very fine example of corrupted government functioning at it's very best....corruption must have it's rewards...fox does guard the hen house... I applaud the effort of Shirley Supik...we need many more like her..
Tom Hope February 08, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Buck, Do you condone the misleading tactics Say-No-To-Solo lead by Shirley use? Not to mention her hiding where her funding came from. Although since this article shows "The developers paid $225,000 to collect 170,000 signatures to place the two bills on the 2014 ballot." No one could get Shirley to admit she got the money from there. Or do you agree that we have a broken Government system?
Buck Harmon February 08, 2013 at 11:23 PM
Tom, I believe that if the required signatures were obtained to have the issue placed on the ballot, that the issue should in fact be placed on the ballot...real simple.. If there were any legitimate laws broken during the process of acquiring these signatures, the party that broke the law should be prosecuted and held accountable... equally as simple. ... I respect the question and challenge to local government decisions ...and so far the government behavior of ignoring the fact that the required signatures were legally obtained is lacking...I would say that the government is misleading with this decision....and I really don't have the passion to care about the way this turns out either....just responding to the way that I see it play out..
Tom Hope February 08, 2013 at 11:53 PM
I hear what you are saying Buck. The thing is the petition process is controlled by rules and not by laws. And although SNTS presented 170,000 signatures the process they used did not follow the rules. No laws broken just rules not followed. No need to prosecute anyone the rules say the petition is found to be invalid. The information is there to be reviewed. You can see what is required for the referendum process and what was delivered. I will not tell you it is so to try and convince you, you can see for yourself. I am no big fan of the 1 party government we have here in MD but, I will not let someone else with a personal agenda lie and manipulate facts supposedly in the name of the people. I know what I was told by these folks pushing these petitions and Shirley Supik cannot tell me any different nor say I didn't.
Chuck Burton February 09, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Have those 170,000 signatures been verified? Who pays the cost of verification - the taxpayers? Those who aquired them? As a taxpayer, I would somewhat resent tax money being spent to verify something that was to the potential financial gain of an outside party.
Tom Hope February 09, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Hey Chuck, Shirley says they're all good. Isn't that good enough for you? But seriously, that responsibility falls under the responsibility of the Board of Elections. I encourage all to go to this link: http://www.elections.state.md.us/pdf/6-201-3a.pdf and see what is necessary for a legitimate petition. I can say with reasonable confidence the rules were not followed by SNTS. All the documentation for the rezoning was to be attached to each petition signed. I see no provisions for there to be a fee to be paid by the petitioner. That would mean it is taxpayer funded. I guess I will be accused of being a law partner for Gibbons if I keep looking into things and spreading truths.
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