The Washington Post

Montgomery planning chief Francoise Carrier says she will step down when her term ends

Montgomery Planning Board Chairman Francoise Carrier said Friday that she will not seek reappointment by the County Council when her four-year term expires in June.

Carrier heads the five-member panel that reviews all zoning and land-use matters, making recommendations to the council on both specific projects and overall policy. It also oversees the county’s park system and evaluates proposals for historic designation of buildings.

It’s a portfolio that makes her job one of the hottest seats in county government, and Carrier has been at the center of numerous bruising zoning and development battles. They include a series of land-use master plans, a blueprint for a bus rapid transit network, an amendment to the master plan for Clarksburg and a rewrite of the zoning code.

It has made her the target of sometimes withering criticism from community watchdogs and some council members. Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) has been outspokenly critical of Carrier’s work on the zoning rewrite, now pending before the council, contending that it could open the door to unwanted residential construction in neighborhood shopping areas.

Planning Board chairs traditionally serve two four-year terms. But Carrier, 50, an attorney who headed the county’s hearing examiner office before her appointment in 2010, said Friday it was time to move on.

“I decided it was time for something new,” Carrier said, adding that she would probably pursue work as a land-use and development attorney — although not until her term ends June 14.

She said she had been asked recently by council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), chair of the council’s Planning Housing and Economic Development Committee, whether she intended to seek reappointment to the $160,000-a-year post. She said she told Floreen and other board members on Thursday that she would not.

Floreen said Friday that she in no way discouraged Carrier from seeking reappointment. “There’s no back story,” Floreen said. “I think she did a fine job.”

Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At-Large), also praised Carrier as “very skillful, enormously smart, graceful and polite,” functioning in a sometimes uncivil environment.

“I think she would have had a very good chance of being reappointed,” Leventhal said.

Two aspirants for the post have already emerged. Board member Casey Anderson, who had been considering a run for the District 5 council seat, said Friday he would not be a council candidate and was interested in the chairmanship.

Former planning commission member Meredith Wellington, who has been highly critical of aspects of the zoning rewrite, has also told council members that she would like to be considered.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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