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Reaction to the Proposed ZRA 180/CB60-2017

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Reaction to the Proposed ZRA 180/CB60-2017

Hiruy Hadgu

On Thursday June 29th, I attended a community meeting at the Dayton Oaks Elementary School held by the Dayton Rural Preservation Society (DRPS). The meeting at the elementary school was held to inform the community of the proposed zoning regulations amendment 180 (ZRA 180) to be introduced as CB60-2017, and to share concerns regarding the activities that the proposed ZRA 180 is expected to regulate. The ZRA covers the activities of composting, mulching, and emergency mulching in certain areas of the county.

From the group, I heard four concerns.

  1. The bill does not clarify what is and is not considered mulching activity for industrial purposes as opposed to limited farm use. They state that, as written, it could be interpreted to allow mulching for commercial or industrial purposes.
  2. They raised numerous immediate and long-term health and safety concerns associated with industrial-size mulching activity. Furthermore, they suggested that areas zoned for M1/M2 activities also have stricter requirements to protect surrounding residents from adverse health consequences.
  3. They presented a timeline of documented violations of existing regulations and actions or lack thereof by the county government to these violations. They stated that proactive measures should be taken to ensure that existing regulations are enforced.
  4. They stated that three years ago, they helped update the zoning regulations after the comprehensive zoning regulations in 2013 resulted in some "unintended consequences". It was clear from the meeting that many felt that influential special interests my have played a role in the current state of events.

During the meeting, an attendee read a response to concerns about industrial mulching received from the County Executive who remains adamant that industrial mulching will not take place as a result of ZRA 180. The DRPS has proposed ZRA 160 that is based on the minority report of the concerned citizens prepared as a result of the task force on mulching activities created by the passing of CB20-2014.

As someone who lives in a district surrounded by a large swath of M1/M2 zoned area, the health and safety risk to District 3 residents concerns me and every effort should be made to strengthen existing regulations to protect the health and safety of residents living near existing M1/M2 zoned regions.

That violations of existing regulations are not met with sanctions until the urging of citizens also concerns me. Proactive enforcement such as audits and inspections can help deter such violations. Also, it sounds like the County Executive and DRPS agree that industrial mulching should not take place while they disagree on the interpretation of the language in CB60. If there are concerns of unintended consequences that could result from this bill, every step should be taken to ensure that the activities the County Executive insists will not take place, do not.

Lastly, the fact that the DRPS is fighting the same fight from 2014 against special interests helps reinforces to me the importance of campaign finance reform - CB30 - currently under consideration by the County Council. The County Executive vetoed CB30 over concerns that tax payer money will be wasted. I would suggest that the cost of fair elections would be far less than the status quo.

Helpful links:

Majority and minority reports of the Task Force on Mulching

DRPS community meeting presentation.

Proposed ZRA 180/CB60-2017.