The Anne Arundel County Council is in full legislative swing after returning from our annual recess month of August. September was full of legislation ranging from land use zoning of small cell infrastructures and pawn shops, to an update of our code for building and maintenance of structures. There were also discussions surrounding pending legislation on safety bills that would prohibit the use of vaping devices in restaurants and require written permission for off-road motorcycles within a certain distance of a residential dwelling.
September was also declared Back to Business Month in Anne Arundel County, following a unanimous vote, 7-0, for my resolution introduced at our meeting in July. As a member of the Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce, I have come to know and love the businesses that are part of our communities. From Severna Park to the Broadneck peninsula, you can notice the foot traffic on Riggs Avenue, Evergreen Road, Bay Dale Drive or the Broadneck Trail, of families and individual residents heading to the local shopping center to support a small “mom and pop” retailer or restaurant. These sights bring a smile to my face, as I know how much each of these establishments value the customers who walk in their doors every day. The last six months have posed a challenge for many of our small proprietors and their employees. These are the community partners who donate items to school fundraisers, offer coupons for sports fundraisers, support events at our local houses of worship and donate food to nonprofit events. Local businesses, owned by people who live here, and who give back in ways we don’t always know about or appreciate.
In these unusual times, they have faced more difficult challenges as there was a shift to online shopping, a method of shopping that only larger box stores were fully prepared to handle as they maintained limited reduction in profit margins. In recent months there have been grant funding opportunities for small businesses made possible through the CARES Act and efforts of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp, but those are a life raft to the long-term challenges each of these small retailers, restaurants and bars will face. With the passage of the “Back to Business” resolution, I have been able to highlight some amazing local places of commerce, entertainment and dining in our district and personally give them my support.
My efforts will not end in September. Every month should be a back-to-business month, and I have committed to supporting them each, in any way that I can. Behind the storefront is a staff that depends on the employment, and an owner who depends on supporting their own family. Many of our small businesses are a place where local teens have their first job and begin saving for their personal goals. These small pieces of the American dream are an important part of our local economy. The relationships of the people behind the counter, serving your favorite fare, or knowing what color scarf you prefer, or the collectable you are scouting for is what makes them part of our community. They get to know us in a way you cannot experience elsewhere. As part of the county executive’s COVID Recovery Workgroup, I have been able to not only share the struggles of the businesses themselves but also the people behind them.
It was the discussions in the workgroup and within the business community that led me to introduce Resolution 38-20 in September. This resolution asked the county executive to lift the 10:00pm closing restriction on indoor dining and allow for additional safety precautions, much like what other sectors have done that serve food and beverages late into the evening. The resolution passed with bipartisan support, 5-2. The council body listened to over 100 minutes of discussion, and by a super majority vote, supported the end of this forced closure.
On October 1, the county executive announced that he would allow indoor facilities to extend their hours to 11:00pm, although alcohol service must still cease at 10:00pm.
October and the months that follow will bring colder days and nights. Outdoor retail and dining will be forced to make some difficult decisions in Anne Arundel County. Restaurants and bars have been trying to make plans to extend their outdoor dining by investing more in heating and enclosing what they created for warm weather in parking lots and sidewalks. Can they afford it while facing a financial loss? Will they invest more to try and stay afloat? When will they get the answers they need to make these important decisions for their survival or permanent closure? I believe they deserve more.
Back to business is important. Balance is also important. Balance of government is the foundation of good government. A government made up of three separate but equal branches should never be forgotten. I look forward to addressing this and other matters in future legislation. I support getting back to business and back to balance in the months ahead.
A full list of upcoming bills and resolutions, as well as ways to submit testimony, can be found here: www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council/legislation.
As always, if you have any thoughts or comments related to county matters, you can contact me at email@example.com