It’s been three weeks since a FOT column appeared, as I have not had my focus on Talbot at all. A trip below the Antarctic circle to see the terrain and critters down there was most excellent, and quite the diversion.
Meanwhile, the Lakeside affair moves towards resolution, albeit in slow motion.
On December 13th the Council received proof that its 2020 approval of Lakeside was based on false pretenses; the central “facts” presented by the developer were inescapably untrue. Do you share my optimism that, in the face of these revelations, the County Council will “Do the Right Thing” and rescind without prejudice its adoption of R281? (“Without prejudice” enables the developer, Rocks, to come back and present the project to us again, but next time untainted by misleading falsehoods and omissions.)
Here’s why I am optimistic: all five Council members clearly did not know when they adopted R281 that the two pillars on which the approval was granted were false. If any Council member already knew that Lakeside was not “immediate priority” but had always been “unprogrammed,” or that the MDE permits from 2005-06 were actually invalid, then that person would have been complicit and acting in bad faith—and surely that is unthinkable. Plus, there is an extensive record—transcripts and videos—showing just how the Council (and Planning Commission, and public) was misled. Excerpts from that record were presented on December 13th.
As I’ve said, there is no dishonor in having been the party lied to, and having the courage to acknowledge that new information demands a change of position. Rescission is necessary, for any other action is to countenance and endorse falsehood and misrepresentation in the administration of Talbot County government. Given that Lakeside is the biggest and most disruptive project ever proposed in Talbot County, any pretense of integrity in our land use review process would be out the window.
(Rescission is also required for other reasons that, while important, simply pale in comparison to the moral challenge described above. For one thing, in early November the Planning Commission, based on new information about La Trappe Creek and the existing Trappe sewer plant, reconsidered its earlier finding and determined that connecting Phase 1 of Lakeside to that plant, as permitted by R281, is not consistent with our Comp Plan. As consistency is a legal requirement for adoption of a Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan amendment, that surely requires R281 be reversed—but somehow the Commission’s action continues to be ignored. Also, it turns out the R281 remapped and reclassified sewer service priority for many, many properties not described in the title or text of the legislation!)
So where is the fly in the ointment? Back in July, near the outset of this effort, the County Attorney told the Council (and all of the rest of us) that the Talbot County Council is powerless to act, that there’s not a thing that the Council can do about it even if it has now learned that it adopted R281 based on Applicant’s false pretenses. Does that sound right to you?
No, me neither.
The so-called opinion was just a bald statement, dicta, not in writing and with no citations or explanation of case law. If those conclusory statements were later backed up in some fashion in writing, we haven’t seen it—and I think we are entitled to it, so we can judge how solid it seems. Because all of us—and the County Council—have also seen the written opinion (complete with citations and the legal reasoning set forth) by Gallagher, Evelius and Jones,
a major Baltimore law firm, asserting that “unquestionably” the Council has unrestricted power to rescind a former action, particularly when based on new information of this sort. (That opinion was obtained for us courtesy of Messrs. Smith, Briggs and McConnel, all local former attorneys troubled by what they had heard from the County Attorney.)
I believe the Council will do the right thing and vote to approve Resolution 308. The reasons are so compelling that that conclusory opinion voiced back in July surely cannot dissuade the Council from right action, especially in the context of the Gallagher treatise. The Council must act, and if there is any question thereafter, the Applicant, the County, MDE and, if necessary, the Circuit Court can sort it out then.
Resolution 308 is on the Council’s January 25th agenda—a week from tomorrow night at 6 pm. That legislation will rescind–without prejudice–the action last year that gave Lakeside the greenlight to proceed (R281). This is scheduled as a “virtual Council meeting,” but as all the information is at long last in hand, I believe we can look forward to the Talbot County Council getting to the right result.
Dan Watson is the former chair of Bipartisan Coalition For New Council Leadership and has lived in Talbot County for the last twenty-five years.
Letters to Editor
Jay Corvan says
I think the Talbot County council needs to be reminded of the oath they took to protect and defend the health and welfare of the citizens of Talbot county , not to guarantee the rights of a developer to make money.
Clearly Mr Watson has made a great case for the propondetance of false and misleading information presented by the developers counsel. This council decision on Jan 25 to rescind 281 cannot be a matter of personal opinion but needs to be taken as part of inherent responsibility to legislative oath they took to preserve and defend.
Carol Voyles says
According to Section 9-505 of the Environmental Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, the County is responsible for oversight. The Maryland Department of the Environment issues permits and also has the option of either providing oversight or relegating that responsibility to our counties.
Environmental Article 9-503 may also grants MDE the option of assigning oversight to counties.
Sheilah Egan says
As always, clear and concise. . . Thank you for doing all this work to protect current residents of Talbot County, as well as those who will come to live here in the future.
Hugh (Jock) Beebe says
A fine review from Mr. Watson, again, that clearly and briefly outlines how things stand now. Now we await January 25 hoping the Talbot County Council shows responsibility as thoughtful legislators by taking action to get back to basics and clearing the path forward to be honestly pursued and legally correct.
SD Swan says
Very Shakespearean/Julius Caesar/Marc Anthony
“I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.”
Jill Poe says
Why does anyone think that these people were fooled into this decision. There is a reason for their decision. There is a reason they are not altering their decision. To bad that The taxpaying citizens of Talbot will suffer for bad decisions. Maybe people will see how it feels to have your best interests over looked by others in the community.
Katherine R. Herbert says
Another good recap of the situation, thank you Dan.
Scott Smith says
Thank you for your diligence in this matter.
William bock says
Thank you for the great in layman’s term recap. And thank you for all your efforts and to all that showed support against this major blow to the life we all hold dear to us… again thank you Dan. It helps to have people like you helping others. Billy and Gloria bock.