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County Council President Bud Otis

The Downside of the Wedding Venues Bill

(5/2017) "Congressman, I know you have a big heart. There is no powerful lobby group to help the poor. You are our guy. Of the $25M in cuts that could be coming, $17M directly affects that community. So, we need an advocate, someone to stand up and let them know in Washington that they are hurting real people, defenseless people that can’t help themselves. Glad you are willing to tackle what needs to be done here. Thank you."

On April 11th, I was fortunate to be part of a roundtable discussion put together by County Executive Jan Gardner which included 6th District Congressman John K. Delaney, Kelly Russell, President Pro-Tem Frederick City Alderman, and top leaders of our departments and local agencies most directly affected by potential federal budget cuts to community service programs. The above quote was my comment to Congressman Delaney towards the end of the dialog.

Congressman Delaney was eloquent in his praise of those in attendance for the human services work they do every day, and straight forward in his determination to fight for these programs. Budget reviews include numbers on spreadsheets, but these programs have real human beings behind those numbers on a page. He said saving these programs was "a moral thing to do…and involves much more political courage." The faith aspect was briefly noted in the context of preserving and enhancing people’s dignity.

This is very personal to me. I have a strong passion to support people who are in circumstances that may be beyond their control and are suffering as a result. Those who may be directly affected by the budget cuts are the most vulnerable, those with no lobbying voice in DC. They are the teenage single mothers who are working as many hours as possible, going to school and trying to provide a safe and healthy life for themselves and their infant children. The opioid epidemic in our society is exacerbated by these circumstances. Count among those people who are unemployed and homeless. You get the picture.

The services provided in Frederick County are tremendous. We receive some state and federal monies to keep them operating and serving those in need. The loss of the federal funding may significantly impact these services and it is my heartfelt hope that this doesn’t happen.

We just participated in the Community Partnership Grant Awards meeting at Winchester Hall with Council VP M.C. Keegan-Ayer headed by County Executive Jan Gardner. It was a real honor to read out some of the names of the organizations who will be receiving these grants to continue and expanding non-profit services in our great county.

Under the last Board of County Commissioners, the budget for these community partnership grants were incrementally reduced over the four years to zero. In the inaugural year of Charter Government, a $250,000 grants program was reinstated. Last year’s budget allocated $500,000 and this year’s budget has an additional $250,000 with a onetime $75,000 infusion for a total of $825,000. It is very nice to see the priorities of the county supporting those who need the help the most. Among the recipients were: SHIP (Student Homeless Initiative Partnership of Frederick County), Second Chances Garage, Inc., the Religious Coalition, Frederick Community Action Agency, Heartly House and many others. For a complete list, please see:

On another topic, Councilman Tony Chmelik’s Event Venues Bill 17-05 was withdrawn by him at our legislative meeting on April 18th citing concerns from the public and the need to rework this Bill. I reviewed all the emails I received and some people offered ideas for amendments:

  • Show 3 years prior to application gross AG income of at least $25k annually
  • Site plan required – adequate parking, lighting, entertainment and noise considerations
  • Farmer be 3rd generation operator of farm or been farmer for 40 years
  • Earned 85% total net income from farming over past 10 years
  • Minimum 400 acre farm
  • All facilities built to commercial grade codes
  • Events must take place inside permanent structure
  • OR – 1% of farm is dedicated to event venue, translated into 500 acre farm using 5 acres for venue

After listening to the public at our hearings, visiting homes in target areas, speaking to many people and digesting the emails, it is my belief that this legislation for changes in agriculture land zoning is not needed in Frederick County. I appreciate Council Member Chmelik taking the initiative to pull his Bill, as it would have been hard for me to support it as presented.

On a separate note, CM Chmelik and I are both on a newly formed work group appointed by CE Gardner to determine under what conditions promotional and educational events should be allowed at wineries, breweries and distilleries. Other members include: CE Gardner; Steve Horn, Director of Planning and Permitting; Katie Albaugh, AG Economic Development Specialist; Lisa Gaver, of the Frederick County Farm Bureau; Tom Mullineaux, of the AG Business Council; Kevin Atticks, of the Brewers Association of MD; and wine/brewery owners Tom Barse and Howard Wilson. The goal is to develop policy and criteria and propose any needed legislation. This is not a work group to study event venues in the AG zone, as CE Gardner is quoted, "I have no interest or intent in appointing a task force for that purpose." I’m looking forward to further discussions through our work on this group.

It is very nice to see that Council Members may disagree on legislation, and can still work together on a work group. It is all about what is in the best interests of Frederick County.

I ran on the platform of "I share your values." It is with pride that I serve all Frederick County residents and every day it is more apparent that we live in a generous and welcoming community.

Please share your thoughts with me at any time, 301-600-1101 or Together we will continue to preserve the beauty of our county – both its heart and heritage.

After a protracted cold season, we are in the midst of beautiful weather. My wife Rose and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Thank you.

Bud Otis

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