Francoise Carrier to head Montgomery County, Md., Planning Board

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The selection of Francoise Carrier as chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board comes at a time of major change for the growing suburb as it tries to contain sprawl, build near public transit and prepare for the thousands of new residents expected in the next two decades.

Carrier, 47, won unanimous backing Tuesday from the County Council, and her appointment to the four-year post, which will pay $160,000 a year, is expected to receive quick approval from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). She would replace Royce Hanson, 78, a nationally known planner and academician, who did not seek reappointment. His term expires in mid-June.

The county's semiautonomous, $100 million-a-year planning and parks departments report to the council and are led by the five-member Planning Board.

Carrier, a lawyer who runs the county hearing examiner's office, would take charge at a tense time for the board, which is facing agency budget cuts while working on improving oversight of development, pushing for innovative, walkable, transit-oriented communities and trying to complete several large plans for segments of the county.

County officials -- grappling with a projected budget shortfall of $779 million in the coming fiscal year -- have suggested chipping away at the park and planning agencies, merging the Park Police with the county police and folding recreation programs run by the Parks Department into the county's Recreation Department. A new round of buyouts for veteran employees is underway. The Office of the People's Counsel, which helps residents without attorneys handle zoning and planning cases, has been eliminated by the County Council.

"She will be a steady hand in difficult times," council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) said of Carrier.

Carrier said she is "excited about serving Montgomery. . . . I am going to work very hard so that you are all as pleased about this six months from now and four years from now as you are today."

Carrier said after the vote that she would wrap up at least one major piece of unfinished business before she moves to the Planning Board. She plans to issue her recommendations on Suburban Hospital's plans to expand in Bethesda. She said she had not decided how to handle a few other pending cases.

Carrier, who lives in Rockville, is a graduate of Rutgers University and Stanford Law School.

Carrier will make less than her top lieutenants but more than Hanson, who makes $159,438. Parks chief Mary Bradford is paid $185,213 annually, and Planning Director Rollin Stanley makes $179,384.

She was selected from a field of 16. Last week, the council interviewed Carrier; Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman, a civil engineer and principal of an engineering firm; Tedi Osias, a lobbyist for Montgomery's Housing Opportunities Commission; and former Planning Board vice chairman John Robinson, a lawyer with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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