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Olszewski’s first veto targets legislation by fellow Democrat

Baltimore County Council chairman Julian Jones and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski at a recent press conference.
John Lee
Baltimore County Council chairman Julian Jones and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski at a recent press conference.

For the first time in more than four years in office, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski has handed down a veto, and it is a rejection of legislation put forward by County Council Chairman Julian Jones, a fellow Democrat.

In a March 30 letter to the County Council requested by WYPR that outlined why he vetoed the bill, Olszewski said the legislation may be illegal because it would give “special treatment to a single party or select few.”

The legislation, which passed the County Council last month on a 6-1 vote, would have allowed a specific building to be converted into a catering hall.

The bill is very specific as to what kind of dwelling can be turned into a catering hall under the legislation. For instance, it has to be along the Hanover Pike Corridor, which is Route 30 in Western Baltimore County. The property has to be between 20 and 50 acres and in a particular agricultural zone.

In his letter, Olszewski said the Baltimore County Office of Law found that if adopted, the legislation likely would be found to be a “special law,” which is prohibited under the Maryland Constitution. In vetoing the legislation, Olszewski said the county would face legal and financial risk if it became law.

This is Olszewski’s first veto, according to press secretary Erica Palmisano. He is in his fifth year in office.

At a public hearing March 14, Chairman Jones said the legislation was designed to allow the owners of a closed landscaping business to convert it into a place that can host events like weddings.

Council members were told the proposal had the support of dozens of people in the community.

Jennifer Busse, a partner in the law firm Whiteford Taylor Preston LLC, testified to the County Council on behalf of the property owners. She said the legislation would help a family of fourth-generation farmers stay in business.

She said the legislation would give people “the opportunity to host and attend events on beautiful property, enjoying spectacular views of acres of farmland.”

Chairman Jones said, “We tried to narrow this down as tight as we could so that we can make sure that this particular approval would not extend throughout Baltimore County.”
The County Council could attempt to override Olszewski’s veto.

However, on Monday night, the legislation was reintroduced in the County Council but a copy of the new version was not available.

Councilman Jones did not return a call for comment.

In his letter to the Council Olszewski said, “In the future we welcome opportunities to collaboratively develop policies to continue promoting opportunities for agritourism in Baltimore County.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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