Correction to This Article
A July 18 article about Montgomery County's process for selecting the next chairman of its planning board omitted the names of three civic organizations involved in identifying qualified candidates. In addition to Allied Civic, the groups are the Montgomery County Civic Federation, the Coalition for Sensible Transportation and the Fairland Master Plan CAC.

Three on Council Back Former Agency Head to Return to Position

Royce Hanson headed the Planning Board from 1972 to 1981.
Royce Hanson headed the Planning Board from 1972 to 1981.
By Ann E. Marimow and Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Three Montgomery County Council members said yesterday that they would back Royce Hanson, a blunt-talking, nationally recognized land-use expert, to rehabilitate the troubled planning agency in the county's most powerful appointed role.

Although most of the nine council members have yet to name their pick, Hanson emerged as the leading candidate from a pack of contenders for the job of Planning Board chairman.

Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) declined to say yesterday whom he supported or to speculate for whom the council would vote when it formally considers the issue July 25. But he said he had "a sense of where the council is going to end up, and if you're calling around today, you can probably do the math."

The outgoing chairman, Derick P. Berlage, delivered a parting note to the council yesterday that acknowledged problems at the agency while praising its efforts to fix them.

County Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), chairman of the committee that oversees planning issues, was joined yesterday by council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) in rallying behind Hanson. They said he could restore public confidence in the Department of Parks and Planning, which the board oversees, and morale among staff members.

Four council members said they were still sifting through community comments or resolving outstanding questions. One, Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty), called Hanson a "leading candidate, if not the leading candidate."

Another, Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring), said it was premature to coalesce around a single candidate and expressed frustration with his colleagues.

"That's unfortunate," said Perez, a candidate for attorney general. "Nobody on the council is doing Hanson or anyone else -- or the public, for that matter -- any favors by stating or suggesting during this process that effectively the fix was in."

Hanson, 74, is one of nine candidates the County Council has interviewed for the full-time, four-year position, which pays up to $150,000. If Hanson is selected, he would return to a position he held more than three decades ago, from 1972 to 1981. He is considered the architect of the county's agricultural reserve program, which protects 93,000 acres -- more than one-fourth of county land.

Hanson is well known to the council, having issued a blistering critique of the planning department in January that outlined systematic problems that he said stemmed from a "sustained lack of institutional and intellectual leadership."

A George Washington University research professor, he was retained by the council as an unpaid adviser to assess the agency after construction irregularities were discovered in the community of Clarksburg. Five high-ranking planning officials, including Berlage, have announced their resignations since the controversy stung the department's credibility.

Floreen said Hanson would be a "stabilizing force" because "you don't want someone who has to learn it all over again."

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