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'Dereliction' Seen at Planning Agency
Hanson's critical assessment drew praise from several council members, including Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), a former Planning Board member, who said he was uniquely qualified to describe what ails the county's planning process.
"You are probably the only person in this county who can sit us all down and tell us what we need to hear, the only person who brings to this conversation a perspective that is outside of the political process and is based on a step back," Floreen said.
In a related matter, the council discussed a request from the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee, which discovered the irregularities there, to be reimbursed for about $500,000 in legal fees and expenses associated with their efforts.
Council member Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty), whose district includes Clarksburg, introduced a bill proposing reimbursement. Several council members said they thought any repayment to residents should be negotiated as part of ongoing mediation with developer Newland Communities, which is building Clarksburg Town Center.
In his review for the council, Hanson said that many of the problems at the planning agency could be fixed with board-approved administrative changes.
Duncan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, has proposed legislation to remove zoning inspections from the planning agency and consolidate it under the Department of Permitting Services, effectively increasing his oversight.
In a separate measure, Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery) has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would give the Planning Board broad power to subpoena witnesses. That measure is being supported by council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive.
Berlage defended the planning agency, saying that it is "involved in every major issue that comes before the board, including Clarksburg. This is a very active, hands-on board."