Rick Meyer Testimony Opposing Bill 18-23 and Urging Council to Fully Fund the Office of the People’s Counsel

Restore full funding to the statutorily mandated Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC)

Testimony of W. E. “Rick” Meyer

Public Hearing

Bill 18-23, Structure of County Government – Community Zoning and Land Use Resource Officer April 18, 2023

I appear this afternoon in steadfast opposition to Bill 18-23.

This Council needs to end more than a decade of shameless efforts to lock residents out of zoning processes. The first step the Council can take towards rebuilding resident trust and repairing the engagement process1 is to vote against 18-23 and to restore full funding to the statutorily mandated People’s Counsel (OPC).

If I might be allowed to present an example of the bewildering hyper complexity of zoning issues – an example that dramatically illustrates why residents desperately need the fully funded legal resources of a People’s Counsel. That example is the debacle of ZTA 19-07.

That wireless zoning ZTA was the cumulative effort of a powerful and persistent PHED Chair. It took him five years (half of a decade) to gain passage - over strenuous and sustained resident opposition.

ZTA 19-07 was “intended” to open the flood gates and allow the wireless industry to place high powered antennas mere feet from bedroom windows in ALL residential zones. Then, after ZTA 19-07 was passed, you cannot imagine our utter disbelief when that same powerful PHED Chair (along with the wireless lobbyists who wrote ZTA 19-07) - suddenly and belatedly - realized they had got it all wrong with respect to various County and utility-owned poles in the public rights of way in residential zones.2

So, what did that powerful PHED Chair do?

He promptly introduced (and rammed through) ZTA 22-01 to "correct matters of intent" - a fabulous euphemism for a legislative overhaul to fix major goof ups in 19-07.3

Now, with the examples of ZTAs 19-07 and 22-01 in mind, I ask the Council: If the PHED Chair - over a duration of five years - could NOT understand the complexities of County Zoning law and the legislation that he sponsored, then how do residents stand any chance in figuring out what is going on?

The Office of the People’s Counsel is very important to us because it is a valuable tool for ensuring transparency and fairness in zoning.

In the coming weeks MC4T will do everything in our power to elevate issues regarding the People’s Counsel in both the media and the eyes of residents.

And MC4T will be sure to show up at your upcoming community forums and Town Hall events to ask some very simple questions:

  • Why does the Council oppose a “balanced public record” in zoning matters by eliminating valuable staff resources that are intended to serve residents?
  • Why does the Council seek to deprive residents of qualified legal assistance in complex zoning matters by de-funding the OPC?

We will anxiously await your responses.

1 Particularly after having to fire the entire Planning Board for “loss of confidence” in 2022.

2 The PHED Chair got it wrong despite prior written warnings from both Council Staff and the County Executive.

3 Listen to former PHED Chair’s brief explanation for introducing ZTA 22-01 at minute 58:03.

Rick Meyer, Executive Director, Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T).
Written testimony submitted to Montgomery County Council: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/agenda/col/2023/20230418/testimony/item7-W_%20E_RickMeyer.pdf

View all of the written testimony submitted: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/OnDemand/testimony/20230418/item7.html

Watch the public testimonies: https://www.youtube.com/live/FoiutnpfnZg?feature=share&t=4522

Caroline Taylor testified earlier as part of a different hearing. Watch her testimony here: https://www.youtube.com/live/FoiutnpfnZg?feature=share&t=3742

Posted by adminMC4T in Montgomery County Council, Oppose Bill 18-23, Rick Meyer Testimony

BREAKING: 9 Groups + Mayor Sign Letter to @MoCoCouncilMD Calling for 1- Council to Follow MD Law, 2- Independent Investigation of Planning Board

Open Letter to 
County Council of Montgomery County, MD

October 21, 2022

Dear Council President Albornoz and Members of the County Council,

We are writing in light of the recent resignation of all five Montgomery County M-NCPPC (Planning Board) Commissioners. According to an October 12 press release, the Council President stated: "The Council has lost confidence in the Montgomery County Planning Board and accepted these resignations to reset operations."

On October 11, the day the Council decided to seek these resignations, seven various land use changes were under consideration – some of which will impact the County for a generation and beyond, including six zoning text amendments (ZTA) and Thrive 2050 – prior to October 31, after which time by State Law these decisions must be left to the incoming members of the new Council. Since October 11, the Council has adopted four of these ZTAs.

If the Council "lost confidence" in the fired Commissioners who authored these land-use plans and recommendations, how can the Council have confidence in what the fired Commissioners have written and edited, and that proper procedure was and is followed?

We the undersigned urge the Council, in its capacity as County Council and District Council, to suspend any and all further action on any pending zoning amendments or zoning legislation until:

1. A new Planning Board comprised of five permanent members is duly appointed in
accordance with Maryland Land Use Code §15-103; and,

2. The Council publicly releases a full and independent investigation to assure that all Planning Board management policies, procedures and controls were in place and properly followed in the preparation of these seven Planning Board recommendations and plans.[1]


(In Alphabetical Order)

Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights

Community Vision For Takoma

Huntington Terrace Citizens Association

Empowering People in Communities of MoCo

Friends of the Earth

Montgomery Countryside Alliance

Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers

North Potomac Citizens Association

Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County

Jeffrey Slavin – Mayor of Somerset

[1] https://montgomeryplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Adopted-and-Approved-Chapter-50-and-59-Administrative-Procedures-Regulations.pdf

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Posted by adminMC4T in Montgomery County Council

Thank you to everyone who came out to support our Rally opposing ZTA 22-01

We’re still in this! Also, BIG Thanks to Fox5DC and @thesierrafox for helping to uplift our voices, raising more awareness.

Share the news coverage with friends! Post on social media!

Re-tweet https://twitter.com/thesierrafox/status/1579991968641609728!

Don’t want a cell tower 30 feet from your bedroom window?

Use Our 1-minute Tool to Email the Council

Posted by adminMC4T in Action Alerts

UPDATED MEDIA ADVISORY: NEW DATE DUE TO WEATHER “No Cell Towers 30 Feet from Homes!” – Residents to Rally At Montgomery County Council Building Oct. 11th at 11:30 am

(Download the PDF Version)

October 3rd, 2022
The Montgomery County Coalition to Protect Neighborhoods
Contact: Eric Meyer

Rockville, MD — With the lame-duck Montgomery County Council poised to ignore resident opposition and approve cell towers on poles just 30 feet from homes, a coalition of grassroots groups will rally against this major proposed zoning change at the County Council building Tuesday, Oct. 11th, at 11:30 AM. And these groups invite the Council to come out and talk about it.

When: Oct. 11th, at 11:30 am

Where: Steps of the County Council Building 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850

Why a Rally? – With just days remaining before the general election, the outgoing Council is continuing to pursue this zoning change despite intense resident opposition -- including a flood of letters and phone calls and unanimously negative testimony from residents at a public hearing on Sept. 13th. Of the residents who signed up to testify at the hearing, the Council allowed only about a third of them to speak.

Some members of the Council appear resistant to meeting with residents. Now residents will bring the conversation to the Council’s own front door!

What Residents Want –

  • For the current Council to stop all activity on ZTA 22-01.
  • For Councilmembers to join residents on October 11th, when the Council breaks for lunch, and speak with their constituents.
  • For the incoming Council, after the general election, to thoroughly review the County’s zoning and regulation of wireless facilities which is out of control, as true stories shared by residents will show. And to take up the proposal by current Council Vice President Evan Glass last year to convene a stakeholder advisory group that would include residents, industry, and others.

About ZTA 22-01 – The Montgomery County Council is tentatively scheduled to vote in October on a zoning text amendment (ZTA) that would allow utility and light poles to be converted into cell towers just 30 feet from houses, apartments, and condos in residential neighborhoods. Residents would receive no prior notice, no public hearing, and no right to appeal. The antennas would be placed on taller, thicker replacement poles with bulky new equipment boxes that obstruct driver and pedestrian line of vision. By reducing the allowable distance from the current 60 feet down to only 30 feet, this ZTA would nearly double the number of eligible poles to about 65,000. This comes on the heels of the Council adopting last year the wildly unpopular wireless zoning change ZTA 19-07, despite thousands of residents writing letters opposing it.

"I moved to Montgomery County because I grew to love it here and thought it would be my forever home," says Nicole Williams, a Silver Spring resident who is active in the Coalition. "Now I'm fearful of one day waking up to a cell tower outside of my home. I cannot afford to just up and move but would be left with no choice because I would have to put my family's health first."

There is no plausible legal argument for the 30-foot setbacks in ZTA 22-01, says Eric Meyer, executive director of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T). "A majority of the current Council is pandering to lobbyists, instead of representing the constituents they were elected to protect,” Meyer adds. “Nearly 40% of candidates in the July primary election signed or supported our pledge to reform wireless regulation in the County, which is what the Council should be working on.”


For more information, see the following:

Promotional tear sheet for the rally with background info

Website with legislative history

Residents’ letter to Councilmembers

Written testimony from residents

Video testimony from residents

Racial equity and social justice letter

Primary election candidate pledge

The Montgomery County Coalition to Protect Neighborhoods is a grassroots group of residents working to reform the regulation of wireless facilities while prioritizing the public interest, including protection of human health, trees, wildlife, and the environment. Groups represented at the October 11th rally also include Community Vision for Takoma, MC4T, MocoSafeG, and Tech Wise Montgomery County MD.

Posted by adminMC4T in media advisory

For Immediate Release. Statement by Rick Meyer, Executive Director, Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T) –Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again; ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

For Immediate Release

Statement by: Rick Meyer, Executive Director,
Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers  (MC4T)

Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again;  ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

Councilmember Hans Reimer is fully admitting that he and the wireless industry lobbyists, who last year essentially spoon-fed the Montgomery County Council zoning language for ZTA 19-07,  made a Titanic-sized mistake.   A mistake so big it requires a “Mulligan ZTA” to repair a giant hole.

Today, Mr. Riemer introduced ZTA 2022-01,  which is “fix-it” legislation to specifically include utility poles. Turns out that utility poles  are separately defined under County wireless zoning code and not subject to ZTA 19-07. To fix the hole requires a ZTA 2022-01 patch job. Which means Mr. Reimer is also effectively conceding that when recommending ZTA 19-07 to the full Council, the PHED Committee that he chairs (including Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Will Jawando),  inexplicably managed to omit the essential giveaway that the  wireless industry coveted most: Unfettered access to more than 30,000 utility poles in Montgomery County!

Further, ZTA 2022-01 will cut in half the minimum set-back distance in residential zones to just 30 feet for utility poles instead of the 60 feet that applies now. The “do over” illustrates that neither Mr. Riemer nor his co-sponsors (Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice) had any idea when ZTA 19-07  was drafted back in 2018 how the wireless sections of Montgomery County's complicated zoning code actually worked .

And even though Mr. Riemer’s  PHED Committee added radical amendments offering up incredible handouts and concessions just to benefit wireless corporations (and ignoring opposition testimony of dozens of residents) ZTA 19-07  still wasn't good enough! Those amendments included lopsided procedures and low-ball fees for conditional use hearings.

It took Mr. Riemer  5 years of flailing away at various failed wireless ZTAs to finally pass an industry written ZTA 19-07. He did so under the cover of the COVID-19 global health crisis that locked us all in our homes. He relied on "virtual" Council meetings with no further public hearings in the 20 months since the one and only public hearing - that was based only upon early un-amended drafts of the zoning change.   After all that maneuvering , the wireless lobbyists belatedly discovered they’d managed (from their viewpoint) to pass a profoundly flawed ZTA 19-07.

So, Mr. Riemer and the wireless lobbyists now want more - they want ALL those utility poles just 30 feet from dwellings – and he  is  unabashedly asking the County Council to further pander to the wireless industry, again,  by voting  for a Mulligan (“do-over”) ZTA 2022-01.

Nice job, Councilmember Riemer.  Go ahead, take another swing.


Posted by adminMC4T