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Wholesale changes not needed for PenMar

December 21, 2003|by Karl Weissenbach

Recently there have been a number of news accounts concerning potential legislative amendments to the PMDC statute that could strengthen or weaken PMDC, the Local Redevelopment Authority for Fort Ritchie.

The Cascade Committee Steering Committee along with other members of the Cascade Committee, and two Army representatives recently met with Dels. Chris Shank (Boonsboro area) and Robert McKee who represents this district in the General Assembly. In addition, Sen. Donald Munson had an aide attend the meeting that occurred on Dec. 1.

The Cascade Committee Steering Committee took a number of positions regarding the future of the PMDC board that we believe reflect the opinion of most of our community. We believe that the charge by some of our elected officials and former PMDC board members that the current PMDC board is dysfunctional is wrong and is contradicted by the successes of the current board during the past four months.

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We believe that the current board has accomplished more in the last four months than the previous boards did during the past five years. We believe that the previous board was indeed dysfunctional until the Washington County Board of Commissioners finally decided to fulfill their oversight responsibility as provided in the PMDC statute (HB 1319) by making sound appointments to the PMDC board.

Conversely, the shrill argument that the "problems" on the board occurred only after community minded individuals were placed on the board is false and appears to be rooted in petty and divisive politics.

The Cascade Committee Steering Committee strongly supports the current board since it is mindful of the various needs of the surrounding community. This board seems to understand that redevelopment includes a balanced approach to creating economic revitalization while simultaneously protecting the environment and protecting and or making available potential community assets, in accordance with the intent of Congress and DOD's base closure guidelines. This current board, unlike its predecessors, seeks community goodwill and input and appears to have adopted a program to reach out to all segments of the community.

To ensure that the PMDC board continues to be successful in carrying out its mission, we believe that the General Assembly needs to be extremely careful in making wholesale changes to the PMDC statute. We believe that once you open the PMDC statute to amendments, special interest groups in Washington County and elsewhere in Maryland could impose changes to the detriment of the Cascade community and by extension Washington County taxpayers. Any changes proposed must be based on what is needed to strengthen PMDC, and what is in the best interests of redeveloping Fort Ritchie.

To reiterate, we believe that the PMDC board is not dysfunctional as charged by some elected Washington County officials who never seemed to show any interest in Fort Ritchie until certain individuals recently resigned from the PMDC board en masse. We believe that if the PMDC statute is to be amended, the county delegation should know our positions which are as follows:

PMDC should not be abolished.

PMDC should be subject to all provisions of the Open Meetings Act.

PMDC should have 11 voting members, with one being a member of the Maryland General Assembly and one being a member of the Washington County BOCC.

The BOCC should have authority to remove members from the PMDC board. The removal process of any board member must be for just cause, such as a violation of Maryland's Criminal Code, or in response to a legal finding by the State Ethics Commission, but not for political purposes or in response to voting decisions.

Because PMDC is an independent agency of the State of Maryland, the PMDC board membership should not be limited to Washington County residents only.

No amendment should be proposed that would have the effect of removing a current PMDC board member or prohibiting any such member from being an officer of the corporation.

The PMDC board should be required to hold at least four evening board meetings each year to allow for maximum public participation (i.e., to allow working families and other interested parties to attend.)

The PMDC should be required to hold at least one annual public meeting in Washington County. All public meetings will be advertised to ensure maximum public participation.

The PMDC statute should be revised to clarify that reuse or redevelopment of portions of the base for park and recreational activities are not prohibited or discouraged.

The Cascade Committee Steering Committee takes the position that any formal decision by the Washington County delegation to amend the PMDC statute must be communicated at a public hearing. We believe it would be unfair to amend the statute without input from the community. We believe that the veil of secrecy that has plagued PMDC in the past must not be adopted by the Washington County delegation.




Karl Weissenbach is director of the Cascade Committee.

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