Mayor and City Council Meeting
Monday, October 24, 2022 - 6:00pm



Council President Brencis Smith would like to hear from City residents about the rent increases in the area and the City’s efforts to address the issue.  Residents are encouraged to attend the Mayor and City Council Meeting on Monday, October 24, 2022, 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Laurel Municipal Center, 8103 Sandy Spring Road, Laurel. For additional information, please contact the Clerk at [email protected].


1. Call to Order – Brencis D. Smith, Council President

2. Roll Call – Kimberley A. Rau, Clerk

3. Approval of Minutes

4. Report of the Mayor and City Council

5. Mayoral Appointments/Reappointments

6. General Public Hearing

PLEASE NOTE: If you wish to be heard at this meeting please sign the speaker list provided on the table at the side of the Council Chamber.  The President has the right to limit the amount of time each speaker has for each agenda item.  Each speaker will have three minutes to speak for each agenda item.

7. Legislation

8. Recommendations

9. Adjournment.



MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2022, 6:00 P.M.


Attendees: Brencis Smith, Council President; James Kole, Councilmember; Keith Sydnor, Councilmember; Martin Mitchell, Councilmember; Carl DeWalt, Councilmember; Christian Pulley, City Administrator; Joanne Barr, Deputy City Administrator; Sara Green, Mayor’s Chief of Staff; James Cornwell-Shiel, Director of Information Technology; S. Michele Saylor, Director of Budget and Personnel Services;  Brian Lee, Director of Public Works; Robert Love, Director of Economic and Community Development; Danny Selby, Fire Marshal; Russell Hamill, Chief of Police; Mark Plazinski, Deputy Chief of Police; Larry Taub, City Solicitor and Kimberley Rau, Clerk.  There were seventy-five people present.


Report of the Mayor and City Council

Councilmember Keith Sydnor stated that he attended the Main Street Festival on Saturday, October 15, 2022.  He also attended the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department Annual Awards Banquet. 

Councilmember James Kole said he attended the Main Street Festival on Saturday, October 15, 2022, and the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department Annual Banquet.  On Thursday, October 20, 2022 he toured Fidos for Freedom and learned about the many services they offer and attended Laurel Citizens University class that evening. 

Councilmember Carl DeWalt welcomed everyone from CASA and Delegate Mary Lehman, encouraged everyone to go out and vote for Delegate Mary Lehman in the upcoming election and thanked all the members of the public who were in attendance, including many of his friends and neighbors.

Councilmember Martin Mitchell noted that he attended the October 13, 2022 Citizens Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities; the October 15, 2022 Main Street Festival; Rick Gordon of City of Greenbelt’s engagement party; October 16, 2022 Sunday Funday at the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department (LVFD) and said that LVFD was the  first to respond when he had a house fire and that he would continue to support them; On October 20, 2022, he had a speaking engagement at a “Yes on Question 4” rally in Baltimore. October 21, 2022 Montgomery County Voter Bash with CASA’s sister organization CASA in Action at the El Gavlon restaurant; October 22, 2022 attended the Rhythm Roll Up Skate Jam contest where he educated people on “Yes on Question 4”, went to Southern Maryland, Chesapeake spoke on question 4, attended the NAACP Annual State Convention where he hosted a panel on GEOTV and ballot initiatives throughout the State. Mr. Mitchell noted that Kathy Peterson had her annual clean-up and thanked Ms. Kolandra Young for the Laurel Lakes Cleanup. Mr. Mitchell said he also attended the Children’s Halloween Carnival hosted by the American Legion. Mr. Mitchell announced that he would be having the 2nd Annual Trunk or Treat at Summerlyn Apartments on October 30, 2022 and thanked the public for coming out to participate in the public hearing and that he had heard them.

Council President Brencis D. Smith said that he attended the Main Street Festival as well as the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department Annual Banquet. President Smith thanked the residents for attending and voicing their concerns.

President Smith reminded the audience that speakers would be limited to three (3) minutes. Councilmember DeWalt asked if he could say one last thing and noted that Trick-or-Treat on Main Street would be held on October 27, 2022 and that it was a safe, great event and encouraged people to attend with their kids.

President Smith opened the General Public Hearing at 6:09 p.m. The first person signed up to speak was Ms. Maria Riveria, 44 B Street, said she was a resident of Laurel for five (5) years and worked in Laurel for twelve (12) years. Ms. Riveria said and that she had a temporary handicapped sticker and got a permit from the City to park on the street but that it had since expired. Ms. Riveria said that she was there because of lack of parking on B Street and that the residents of C Street Flats apartments had threatened her, blocked her, and that she felt that the City of Laurel was not doing enough to help her. Ms. Riveria also stated that the C Street Flats residents had places to park and she did not. President Smith told Ms. Riveria that someone from the City would follow-up with her to assist her with the issue.

The next speaker was Maryland State Delegate Mary Lehman representing District 21, 16204 Julie Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707. Delegate Lehman said that she had submitted her written statement to the Clerk (see attachment #1). Delegate Lehman said that she was there in support of the bill put forth by Councilmembers Mitchell and DeWalt regarding rent stabilization. Delegate Lehman said that there were no limits on increases to rental rates that landlords could charge in State, County or City law. Delegate Lehman said that she had tried to reinstate the Prince George’s County Affordable Housing laws that were repealed in 1996 while serving two (2) terms on the Prince George’s County Council but was unsuccessful. Delegate Lehman noted that wages had not kept up with inflation and that some landlords had increased rents by 10, 20, 30 or more percent per year forcing people from their homes. Delegate Lehman said that she introduced a bill in the State legislature to require that landlords give tenants at least ninety (90) days’ notice prior to increasing rent by more than 4%, but that the bill was squashed in the Senate by landlords and their lobbyists. Delegate Lehman said that she was there to encourage the City to take the lead on this matter and pass a rent stabilization law.

The next speaker was Ms. Javas Huntington, 575 Main Street Apt. 455 Laurel, Maryland 20707 and said that her apartment building had recently been purchased by a new owner who had been buying other properties in the City. Ms. Huntington said that she received a $625 rent increase for her one bedroom/studio apartment and that she was there to ask for rent stabilization and thanked Councilman DeWalt, Councilman Mitchell and CASA who had helped her negotiate a 13% rent increase versus the 45% increase the landlord originally notified her of but that she knew that the lower rate would soon end.

Ms. Alina Kenealy, 585 Main Street Apt. 343, Laurel, Maryland 20707, lived in Laurel her entire life and was able to move by herself into a one-bedroom apartment at Patuxent Place and that a few months prior, the new owner had tried to increase her rent by $400 which would have been a 25% increase that would have forced her to move. Ms. Kenealy was in support of rent stabilization.

Next, Mr. Darrell Talastas 625 Main Street Laurel, Maryland 20707, he and his wife moved to Laurel approximately four (4) years ago and also received notice that the landlord was increasing rent by $600 a month that would have been approximately a 45% increase. Mr. Talastas said that it forced him and his wife to start looking for a house to purchase and that they too were able to negotiate a 13% increase with the landlord that gave them some time to keep looking for a house. Mr. Talastas said that he thought there should be some type of rent increase cap.        

Ms. Ellen Lyons, 7901 Laurel Lakes Avenue retired from Federal Government and before then, she lived in Laurel and had found a church home. Ms. Lyons said that she already wasn’t happy with the rent in Laurel but then she was able to move into the Laurel Lakes Senior Housing property. She never imagined that she would lose her church home at 944 Fourth Street due to a high rent increase. Ms. Lyons said that the property owner gave her church 10 days’ notice about a $1,000 lease increase and her church lost their location. Ms. Lyons said that her kids were trying to make her move back to North Carolina because they said she couldn’t afford to live in Laurel but she said she wanted to stay in Laurel and that Laurel was her home. Ms. Lyons asked that the City pass rent stabilization.

The next speaker was Ms. Kia Jefferson, 585 Main Street Apt. 443 Laurel, Maryland 20707, who had lived at Patuxent Place for seventeen (17) years and had gotten a 23-day notice that her rent was being increased by $800 via email at 9:00 pm. CASA helped her negotiate what would have been a 56% increase to her rent to a 13.5% increase which was still a lot of money. Ms. Jefferson said that rent stabilization was needed in the City.

Ms. Linda Thomas, President, NAACP understood that when things get tight people need help and many of the residents who were there were not going to have a home without new bills or someone doing something to help. Ms. Thomas said that there was nowhere in Prince George’s County for people to go, that most of the new homes being built in the area were $1 million. Ms. Thomas said that if Laurel took the lead and passed a bill it could be used as a template to take to the County and State legislatures. Ms. Thomas said that the issue of affordable housing was not just an issue in the City of Laurel, but that it was happening everywhere like Hyattsville, Bladensburg, Clinton, etc. Lastly, Ms. Thomas said that she wanted to thank Laurel Police Chief Russ Hamill and Deputy Chief Mark Plazinski because they had been working with the NAACP on many things and that they would not have been able to do some of them without their support.

Ms. Joan Stirling, 525 Main Street Apt. 401 Laurel, Maryland 20707, said that she was born and raised in Laurel, had relocated to Long Island in 2003 but had returned to Laurel to help her sister care for their elderly mother in 2017 when she moved to Patuxent Place. Prior to the new property owner purchasing the building, rent increases were consistent and typically around 3%, but the new owner had decided to increase her rent by $625 and she had an unrenovated studio apartment. Ms. Stirling said that she was in the middle of the road on the issue of rent stabilization, that she normally wasn’t a big proponent of rent stabilization but that she would like to see the City work on something such as a tenant’s advocacy bill that would at least require 90 days’ notice of rent increase and maybe require justification if the rent were going to go up significantly.

Ms. Janette Kenne, from Takoma Park, heard about what was going on in Laurel with the rent situation and that Takoma Park was experiencing the same problem. Asked for everyone there to go to Takoma Park the following week where the elected officials were going to be having a hearing about the same thing. She wanted a Councilmember from Laurel to help a Councilmember in Takoma Park work on a solution.   

Mrs. Ruth Walls, 329 Prince George Street Laurel, Maryland 20707, spoke next stating that she was a registered nurse and she helped a lot of homeless people. Mrs. Walls said that she didn’t think people understood how difficult it was for people to get housing vouchers in the area and that people sometimes sat on housing voucher waiting list and died waiting. Mrs. Walls said that affordable housing was really a crisis, everyone was affected when people were displaced, and people suffered. Felt hopeful that the City would pass something because she knew that all of the Councilmembers cared.

Ms. Novia Martinez, 8110 Gorman Avenue Laurel, Maryland 20707, Westgate Apartments addressed the City Council in Spanish and then in English stating that she had six (6) children and three (3) who lived with her, and she was frustrated because her rent went up. Ms. Martinez said that she used to pay $1,320 in rent and it went up to $1,630 plus utilities, food, etc. Her income was not going up and she could not afford to pay more. Ms. Martinez said that she didn’t want to move from Laurel and asked rent stabilization laws be passed.

Mr. Ryan Washington with the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) representing property owners throughout the Metropolitan area spoke next stating that AOBA opposed any type of rent control and that rent control disincentivizes property owners from providing affordable housing and from maintaining properties. Mr. Washington said that property owners were not immune to inflation and rising costs and many had seen insurance increases and increases in utilities, taxes, supplies and materials for property maintenance, etc. Most of AOBA’s clients report an average of 3.4% rent increases. Mr. Washington said that AOBA planned to submit written information in the near future.

Mr. Edy Mayorga, 8102 Gorman Avenue Apartment 318 Laurel, Maryland 20707, Westgate Apartments, spoke in Spanish and Jorge Benitez-Perez, CASA translated into English. Mr. Mayorga had to work even more and sacrifice spending time with his family to pay for the rent and other cost increases. Many had said that he and his family should move if the increase in rent was too much, but he did not want to leave Laurel. Mr. Mayorga said that he had to immigrate to the United States to escape poverty and now was being pushed out of the City of Laurel. Mr. Mayorga said that the solution was right in front of everyone and that the Council could pass rent stabilization and that he did not want to leave Laurel and did not want to jeopardize the mental health of his children who were in high school.

Ms. Ola Harbour, 8216 Gorman Avenue, Laurel, Maryland 20707, Westgate Apartments. Ms. Harbour said she lived at the apartment complex for five (5) years and the new owner increased rent up to 25% when previous owner normally increased the rent by 3-4%.  She said she tried to contact the owners, but her requests were ignored.  July/August she went on strike and refused to pay rent which got the owners attention and agreed to meet with the residents.  Ms. Harbour said that she had anxiety about what would happen in 2023 and asked the Mayor and City Council to pass rent stabilization. 

Ms. Ana Rodriguez, 13149 Larchdale Road Laurel, Maryland 20708, spoke in Spanish and then in English to the Council stating that Laurel was her community and that she and her neighbors needed help against high rent increases. Ms. Rodriguez said that rent was going higher and that rent stabilization would help because parents couldn’t pay their rent even with working with two jobs and asked that the Mayor and Council please pass rent stabilization.

Councilmembers provided individual closing remarks regarding rent stabilization.

President Smith closed the public hearing at 7:03 p.m.

President Smith announced a special work session would take place on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, 6:00 p.m. on housing policies.

There being no further business to come before the Mayor and City Council the meeting was adjourned at 7:04 p.m.


Kimberley A. Rau, MMC

Clerk to the Council

Approved: Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk                  Date: January 23, 2023

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