The Power of a few should not outweigh the right to Due Process
Montgomery County Council
Council Office Building
100 Maryland Avenue, 5th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
OPPOSITION TO ZTA-17- 04 - Citizens’ Right to Due Process
My wife Sara and I, are life-long residents of Potomac and have served as proud stewards of the historic Old Angler’s Inn (OAI) which has been in our family since 1957. Residents of Potomac and the surrounding metropolitan area have enjoyed our unique and gorgeous setting for 60 years and we have worked tirelessly to maintain our quality and status as a destination restaurant. However, operating a fine-dining restaurant is challenging and it has become more and more difficult to continue our tradition of outstanding food and service due to the rising costs of maintaining a historical building, paying taxes, staffing, and rising food expenses.
In order to continue to operate, we knew we had to take steps to improve our situation and to make good use of the adjacent undeveloped 7 acres that is now the subject of the proposed ZTA 17-04.
Shockingly, ZTA 17-04 was introduced specifically and for the sole purpose of stripping away our right to a final hearing on the merits of our application for a Country Inn. It is simply unacceptable and reckless for those councilmembers who introduced and now are sponsoring this amendment to have acted solely on the bequest of a few powerful and well-connected individuals without any due diligence on the merits of the request and the need for such an amendment. It is one thing to be responsive to your constituents’ needs but it is an entirely different matter to take such actions that have such an immediate detrimental and final, outcome on a small 60year-old, historic, tax paying, responsible and community minded business like Old Anglers Inn based solely on one side’s false narrative. It is outrageous that no thought nor consideration was given to the resulting harm caused by such a reckless ill-advised and unconstitutional amendment.
We spent years exploring our options before finally filing our Country Inn application in 2015. We entertained lucrative offers from builders and had plans drawn to determine the number of homes and/or townhomes that our 7 acres could yield. At the end of the day it was determined that developing the land for yet another group of 6,000 sq.ft+/- McMansions would ruin the property, would provide very little return and more importantly destroy what all of our patrons have come to love, the tranquility and beauty of Old Angler’s Inn.
After so many years of hard work, public hearings and expensive studies to ensure compliance with all zoning regulations, we received a long-awaited recommendation from the Zoning Board’s Development Review Committee (DRC) and we were finally scheduled for a final public hearing this September in front of the Hearing Examiner to either approve or deny our application. This process, as landowners and a longtime local business was extremely expensive and time consuming but to us, worthwhile because we wanted to be sure that what we intended on doing was the highest and best use of that land not only for us as a business but for our community at large. It was also extremely time consuming and expensive for the tax payers of Montgomery County who footed the bill for all of the meetings, analysis, deliberations and public hearings that the good people down at Zoning endured in order to meet the letter and spirit of the law regarding the application process and ultimate recommendation for approval.
Your actions on the Council to introduce this reckless ZTA has caused the Hearing Examiner to postpone in perpetuity our final hearing! The co-sponsors of this text amendment have single handedly stolen ours and our communities right to due process! Do any of the co-sponsors of this Amendment, especially Council member Roger Berliner who represents my district, realize that the Brickyard Coalition, River Falls Association representatives and our neighbor have presented a completely false narrative as to what it is we have applied for and have used that hyperbolic fallacy laced propaganda to scare neighbors into supporting their petition drive for ZTA 17-04? This coalition of organizations purporting to represent a referendum of their neighbors and neighborhoods have opposed our plans from the start and do not represent a plebiscite of opinion. In fact, many if not most of our neighbors love our concept and welcome such an addition to the area.
It is our position that the proposed ZTA 17-04 is unjustified and has no purpose except to stop us from developing our land as is presently allowed under current law. That is improper and unfair not only to Old Angler’s but to the general public. We all deserve a right to be heard on the matter in the proper forum, on the merits of the application and not be circumvented and diverted to a hearing on an unwarranted, ill-conceived proposed text amendment that was introduced for the sole purpose of stopping Old Anglers and the general public at large, from having our day in court. Zoning laws should not be amended to specifically prevent our 60-year-old business from developing our land in the best interest of the community.
By sponsoring this ZTA and causing our final hearing to be canceled, Roger Berliner and the others have unilaterally stolen the due process rights of the community at large. They have caused irreparable financial harm to one of the few remaining second generational small businesses in the area. They have wasted hundreds of thousands of tax payer money spent on the application process over that past 2.5 years. They have wasted the public’s time as well, enduring and preparing for multiple public hearings and responding to notices posted by Zoning in regards to our application. They have also embarrassed Montgomery County and all of the good people within the inter-agencies down at Zoning who have dedicated themselves to the development process and ensuring that any application is thoroughly vetted, meets all standards and regulations as set forth in the zoning code and just as importantly meets the spirit of the law. Co-sponsoring this bill is a slap in the face of every hard working caring staff member of each of the inter-agencies of the DRC. It is simply an outrage that none of you bothered to look at the application, speak with the DRC nor speak with the landowner and only listened to the few that you erroneously believe can help you with your next election. WE DESERVE BETTER!
Lastly, think about what you have proposed. You want to amend existing text in the zoning code to specifically change the types of properties that can apply for the conditional use “Country Inn”. This change is based solely on what you erroneously believe is an urgent need to prevent “restaurants from opening up in residential neighborhoods under the current definition of Country Inn conditional use. However, the code is already very clear that “restaurants” are not available under the Country Inn conditional use. In fact the code is very restrictive as to approval of a Country Inn conditional use. It has been a part of the Zoning Code for decades with few successful applications. There is no proliferation of Country Inns throughout Montgomery County. There are no HOOTERS as the opposition argues, in residential neighborhoods that have come into existence under the guise of a Country Inn conditional use. In addition to having no basis nor justification for considering this ZTA, you want to have this law retroactively apply specifically to prevent Old Angler’s from moving forward on its application. That is inherently unfair and under the circumstances where so much time and money have been expended not only by us, the applicant, but by the general public, unconstitutional. It is also highly suspicious as to your motivation. You are stepping all over the process and the will of the people. We have a proper forum that we the people have detrimentally relied upon in applying for our Country Inn. Allow the process to move forward under current law. We have invested so much, have worked tirelessly under the constraints of the current code, already received the recommendation from the DRC and expect a positive result when we are finally in front of the Hearing Examiner. Let the system work. Contribution dollars should not circumvent our rights under the Constitution. Preserve our right to due process!
Concerned Citizen, Business Owner and Tax Payer!
- Mark and Sara Reges, Proprietors of Old Angler’s Inn