ANNAPOLIS – Montgomery County voters won’t get to decide on the fate of speed humps.
Maryland’s highest court Tuesday upheld a Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling to keep the issue off the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The seven-member Court of Appeals did not issue the reason for its decision, only the order. The written opinion will come later.
However, arguments in court Tuesday centered on whether speed humps should be dealt with legislatively by the County Council or as a proposed charter amendment on the ballot.
Gerald I. Holtz, a lawyer representing citizens who want to keep the speed humps, said the issue does not belong on the ballot because it does not deal with the “fundamentals” of how government is supposed to work.
“There is nothing fundamental about speed humps,” Holtz argued.
Question I, as it would have appeared before voters on the ballot, would have prohibited Montgomery County from placing additional speed humps on county roads and required the removal of all humps throughout the county within one year of the amendment’s passage.
Alan Fischler, a lawyer and spokesman for the organization Save Our Streets, which sought to have the humps banned, told the judges they are a physical assault to the public — they slow down emergency vehicles.
“This issue impacts the lives and safety of citizens,” said Fischler, responding to Judge Dale R. Cathell’s concerns over the validity of a charter amendment.
“When the county acts irresponsibly, the voters have a right to include this in the charter,” Fischler added.
The judges, however, did not seem to agree with Fischler’s reasoning that the County Council had failed to do its job.
“You’re arguing that representative democracy doesn’t work,” Judge John C. Eldridge said to Fischler.
The speed hump construction program began in Montgomery County in 1994 in an effort to slow down drivers on residential streets.
The humps are slightly lower and wider than the bumps found in other jurisdictions. The humps are generally 3 to 3 and 1/2 inches high, said Robert Merrryman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation.
Since 1994, more than 1,146 humps have been placed on county streets, at a cost to taxpayers of between $1,200 to $1,700 apiece, Merryman said.
The building program came to a temporary halt in July 1997, after the County Council received complaints from residents outraged at the number of speed humps being placed on their streets. But the ban was lifted in March after the County Council tightened guidelines for their construction. However, council members told the public works department in late August to stop building the humps until the ballot question was resolved.