Probe Sought Of County's Planning Department

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 31, 2007

Two county lawmakers have asked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) to open a probe of the planning department after Olney resident Steven Kanstoroom alleged that the planning board and staff are making decisions based on faulty documents and failing to take appropriate steps to prevent fraud.

Del. Herman Taylor has written to Gansler asking him to review issues raised by the planning department's reluctance to halt two development projects next to Kanstoroom's home. The planning board has to give permission before many projects can be built.

Taylor said late last week that the AG's office has assured him it is examining the claims. Kanstoroom argues that planners rely on sometimes inaccurate documents from builders and their contractors.

In his letter, Taylor (D-Montgomery) said the building projects "were predicated on false and misleading documents" and resulted in "a large illegal forest clearing." He said more destruction "appears imminent."

He said that the problems Kanstoroom found with allegedly faulty documents "appear to potentially affect a large number of county residents."

Similarly, County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At large) also has written to Gansler to urge his office's involvement. The allegations, he said, "are credible and warrant an investigation."

Rose Krasnow, head of development review for the planning department, said agency officials think they have given appropriate attention to Kanstoroom's claims. They have made some internal changes to more closely vet documents for accuracy, fined a neighbor of Kanstoroom's $500 for illegal tree cutting and asked the neighbor to replant.

"We feel we have completely responded . . . . Our job is to make sure that all the parties have been dealt with fairly," she said.

Kanstoroom, who had been prodding the state's Department of the Environment to take steps to stop illegal dumping on property owned by Pepco and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, was recently awarded the "civil justice award" from the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association for helping victims of Hurricane Isabel and for his assistance on legislation in the General Assembly that makes it easier for victims to recover payments from insurers.

Planning Board Interviews

The County Council will interview candidates on June 11 and 12 who are vying to replace two retiring members of the planning board. The job pays $30,000.

The council is expected to select two commissioners soon afterward to succeed Democrat Wendy C. Perdue and Republican Meredith K. Wellington, whose terms expire June 15.

One new board member must be a Democrat or an independent and one must be a Republican or an independent.

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