The Washington Post

Montgomery County lobbyists report nearly $700,000 in payments for first half of 2013

Lobbyists — mostly attorneys representing developers — reported collecting nearly $700,000 to promote their clients’ interests with Montgomery County officials in the first half of 2013, records show.

The largest single fee ($199,345) was reported by attorney Stephen Elmendorf for representing Percontee, the private developer that has partnered with the county to build a medical and life sciences research hub in the White Oak section of eastern Montgomery. It is the centerpiece of the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, approved by the Montgomery Planning Board last year and due to be taken up by the County Council next month.

Elmendorf, of Linowes and Blocher, LLP, said the fees largely represent time spent consulting with County Executive Isiah Leggett’s staff to work out questions involving allowable density and the traffic it would generate. The county and Percontee own adjoining lots on the 300-acre site, which is east of Route 29 off Industrial Parkway.

“Everything from soup to nuts,” Elmendorf said in describing his services. “But we were focused on getting the master plan to say what we wanted it to say.”

Another land-use attorney, former planning board chairman Gus Bauman, reported $18,981 for representing Percontee on the White Oak Master Plan. Bauman is with Beveridge & Diamond, PC.

The size of the fees reflect the high stakes involved in the White Oak project, which county officials hope eventually will provide jobs and other economic benefits to the long-neglected eastern county. The county’s partner, Percontee, is a company owned by the Gudelsky family, long active in Montgomery real estate and a frequent contributor to political campaigns.

Elmendorf said he expects the report for the second half of 2013 to also show heavy activity. The council sent the master plan back to the planning board in October because of concerns that road and transportation improvements were inadequate to accommodate the scale of construction envisioned. The board approved a series of proposed changes last month that relaxes policies to allow for more traffic. The council has scheduled a Feb. 4 public hearing.

Attorneys and other paid representatives lobbying the county have been required by law to register and report their fees for many years, but a new online reporting system makes it easier to view lobbying activity. Fees for the second half of 2013 will be posted in the next few weeks, according to Robert Cobb, chief counsel and staff director of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.

Linowes attorneys represented a range of other clients with county business in the first half of 2013, including Johns Hopkins, the National Labor College, and developers Foulger-Pratt, EYA and the Federal Realty Investment Trust. Attorneys reported total fees of $314,937.

Other active lobbyists were Steven Robins, Robert Harris, Robert Brewer, Jr., William Kominers and Stacey Silber, attorneys with the firm Lerch, Early & Brewer, Chartered. They reported fees of $96,625 to represent clients that included United Therapeutics, Clarksburg Outlet Center, Howard Hughes Medical Center and Landmark Companies/Newdale. The last two were key players in the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan approved by the council last year.

Diane Cameron, director of conservation at the Audubon Naturalist Society, reported $45,800 in fees for various environmental and land-use matters. Of that amount, $17,000 was compensation for lobbying and $26,000 for “professional and technical research and assistance,” according to the filing.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.



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