Apparently it has been kept under wraps for years. The County has allowed anonymous complaints for any zoning infractions. While the policy may have had good intentions, it has now become a popular method to pit neighbor against neighbor. Don’t like the tree that just blocked your view–report it anonymously and hopefully the County will find something wrong. Where has accountability gone?
While it seems the County zoning department has seen this policy as an extension of their staff with literally millions of eyes watching on their behalf, they also have been reaping the benefits in terms of fines and violations missed by their own inspectors.
In addition, The Maryland Gazette reports that the County is also using some less than ethical tactics to spy on homeowners including:
- Inspectors filing “anonymous” complaints themselves
- Utilizing a police helicopter to seek out infractions
- The use of Google Earth and Street View to virtually inspect
While abiding by the law is something we all need to do, these subversive tactics are an affront to the privacy we expect as homeowners. And it gets worse when inspectors (who can earn rewards based on infractions) are able to submit anonymous complaints. It sort of rings back to the time when a police office would pull you over for no reason and then smash your headlight and write a ticket for no headlight.
The County is using these tactics as a revenue generator. The typical fine for a zoning infraction is $1000 per name listed on the deed. It’s quite a burden on the homeowner and quite a revenue generator for the County.
While there is no bill in front of the County Council to prevent the helicopter and Google spying, former Chariman Ed Reilly did introduce Bill 44-09 which will eliminate the ability to file an anonymous complaint.
The bill will be introduced in tonight’s County Council meeting and residents of Anne Arundel County are encouraged to attend and voice your opinion on this legislation.County Council Monday, June 15, 2009 7:00PM The Arundel Center 44 Calvert Street Annapolis, MD