Fairness in the Process

All residents who have stood before the Howard County planning or zoning boards know that in many ways the process is broken. I propose the following suggestions in the interest of fair play:

First, a policy should be adopted requiring the Department of Planning and Zoning to ensure that its technical staff reports be completed and available to the public at least 14 days before Planning Board meetings or 30 days before Zoning Board hearings. This is the time frame in which the developer is required to post signs notifying the public of the case.

Second, any questions the department has posed to the developer must be answered and documented in the staff report before the department grants approval or conditional approval for any case that goes before either board. The department, for instance, gave conditional approval to the developer in the most recent Maple Lawn case before more than 10 questions were answered. The developer answered the questions at the Planning Board meeting, with residents hearing those answers for the first time. No time was given to prepare a rebuttal.

The chairman of the Planning Board said it best: "There's a great deal of ambiguity for issues that are not resolved." Is the department now satisfied with the developer's response to the questions?

There should be a policy that permits all parties to directly question the planning director and her staff members during any planning or zoning board hearing.

Will any county official step up to the plate and sponsor these policies so we will have a more level playing field?

Stuart M. Kohn