Montgomery County Council Prepares to Pick a Planner
Thursday, May 28, 2009
In the coming month, the Montgomery County Council will step into the process of filling a vacant position on the Planning Board, interviewing nine applicants in a one-day marathon scheduled on June 16.
The County Council, which supervises the board, must select one of the applicants for the post, which is part time and pays $30,000 annually.
Although the rules governing board membership require some political balance, the open position can be filled by a Democrat, Republican or someone affiliated with another political party. At times, a spot on the Planning Board has served as a stepping-stone to elected office.
Unlike in most Maryland jurisdictions, the Montgomery parks and planning agency, with a $122 million budget and a staff of about 1,000, mostly on the parks side, reports to the County Council, not to the county executive, and operates semi-autonomously in its relationship with county government.
In recent years, the board has played a pivotal role in efforts to rebuild older sections of the county, manage increasing traffic and determine what should be built on the small amount of remaining buildable open space.
The agency also has been at the center of some political storms over lax oversight of development, most recently in disputes over plans for Clarksburg, Montgomery's final frontier for development. Amy Presley, one of the citizen-leaders of Clarksburg residents' efforts to pressure government to ensure compliance with county laws, was appointed to the Planning Board last year.
Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) served on the Planning Board previously. Royce Hanson, who was appointed chairman in 2006, is a former board member who twice ran for Congress.
The vacancy that this year's appointee will fill arose because the term of John Robinson, a lawyer at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, expires June 14. Robinson has served two four-year terms and is ineligible for reappointment.
No more than three members of the Planning Board may be from the same political party, and all five members must be residents and registered voters of Montgomery County when appointed.
The other board members are Hanson, a Democrat; Joseph Alfandre, a Democrat; Jean B. Cryor, a Republican; and Presley, a Republican.
All those who have been invited to interview are Democrats:
Alan S. Bowser of Silver Spring; Carol Van Dam Falk of Potomac; Ilaya Rome Hopkins of Bethesda; Patricia H. Lee of Olney; Christopher Paladino of Silver Spring; Donna Mandel Perlmutter of Potomac; Roberto R. Piñero of Silver Spring; Cynthia Rubenstein of Silver Spring; and Marye Wells-Harley of Silver Spring.