BULLETIN: Cecil County Commissioners Blasted on “Tier” Land Limits; Broomell Attacks Hodge, ‘Patriots’
An overflow crowd of several hundred people jammed the main meeting room and hallways at the county office building in Elkton Tuesday night, as farmers and property rights advocates condemned a proposed ‘tier” land preservation map supported by a three-vote majority of the Cecil County Commissioners.
The comments were spirited and overwhelmingly against the proposal. But at one point the verbiage spilled over into an attack by Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) against members of the Cecil County Patriots, the local tea party group that has been outspoken against the tier plan, and yet another attack by Broomell on her fellow commissioner, Robert Hodge (R-5).
Broomell was a prime architect of the so-called “draft 4” version of the tier maps that was put out for Tuesday night’s public hearing, a map that was also endorsed by the two other members of the “Three Amigos” faction of the county board–James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3). Hodge and Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) opposed it. The map is not yet final, and a plan does not have to be submitted to the state until the end of the year.
But lame duck Commissioners’ board President Mullin, who lost the GOP primary for re-election to his seat and will be out of office as of early December, declared that the commissioners would give final approval to a tiers map in the next two weeks. The speedy schedule indicates Mullin and Broomell want to push ahead with their plans before the outcome of the November election that could dramatically change the political landscape in Elkton.
The fireworks ignited Tuesday night when Jackie Gregory, a member of the Patriots group, condemned the “Draft 4” tiers plan and said that Broomell had “moved in the opposite direction” of her campaign promises when she was elected a commissioner two years ago.
“That’s not correct,” interjected Broomell, breaching the usual protocol of a public hearing that commissioners do not speak and the lawmakers listen to the viewpoints of citizens.
“I’d appreciate not being interrupted,” Gregory responded, before continuing that the tiers map was “a local map coming from local commissioners” and suggesting it was disingenuous for Broomell and Mullin to claim that they were just doing what they had to do under state mandates. She said the commissioners should not be “cowards” and should listen to local residents and follow the directives of a citizen-drafted Comprehensive Plan.
(The county Planning Commission rejected the Three Amigos-endorsed tier 4’ map as over-reaching and not compliant with the county’s Comprehensive Plan that sets planning and land preservation priorities. A “draft 8” map has been drawn in recent days to reflect the planning panel’s view of the comprehensive plan’s blueprint for the county’s future.)
Then, Broomell demanded to speak amidst the citizen comments, stating, “I’d like to speak.” But the crowd yelled, “NOOOO” and then Mullin declared, “Point of order—No shouting from the audience.”
He then allowed Broomell to speak, and she declared that her views had been misrepresented and said, “I did not support a tier map that selectively removed” certain properties from a more restrictive, no-growth Tier 4 into a less restrictive Tier 3 category that “would have benefited certain property owners.”
Then, glaring at the audience, Broomell asserted that “these people are orchestrated and here to support Robert Hodge.” At that the crowd gasped and registered dissent, at which Mullin loudly declared, ‘I’ve got a security guard,” gesturing toward a police officer stationed at the back of the room.
[CECIL TIMES will be posting a further account of the hearing subsequently, but we felt it was sufficiently important to get out this brief account Tuesday night within hours of the event.]