Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The High Art of Dysfunction

This morning I listened in on a “Community Conference Call” hosted by Mike Davis, Lin Eagan, Phil Engelke, David Yungman and Sharon Lee Vogel. The purpose of the call was to bring attention to what they referred as the “hijacking” of the Columbia Town Center redevelopment plans (ZRA 113) by the county planning board.

“The Planning Board has had the plan since last December and closed public testimony in April. What more is it going to take to get this in the hands of our elected County Council?”

The Howard County Planning Board has been deliberating ZRA 113 for over nine months now. Originally, they were to make their recommendation to the county council by May. Realizing they needed more time they “granted” themselves an extension to July 16th but they couldn’t make that date either so they granted themselves another extension to August 20th.

They didn’t make that deadline either. This time though they didn’t even bother with the formality of granting themselves an extension. Now they are simply saying they’ll pick things up again at their September 2nd meeting.

Meanwhile, Rome burns. The center of gravity for development has shifted south. Prince Georges County Planning Board has already approved preliminary development plans for the new town of Konterra on Howard’s southern border and the city of Laurel is also poised to seize the initiative to capitalize on BRAC related growth. Columbia is dangerously close to becoming irrelevant.

Now, before I go too far, let me just say that I respect anyone who is willing to volunteer their time to try and make our community a better place to live. Planning Board members David Grabowski, Gary Rosenbaum, Linda Dombrowski, Tammy CitaraManis and Paul Yelder are all volunteers and have all given many hours of their time to the county.

But enough is enough. It is time for this group of individuals to acknowledge that they have become hopelessly dysfunctional and “shit or get off the pot” on ZRA 113, even if that means passing it up without a recommendation like they did on the village center redevelopment bill, ZRA 102.

At least that would be doing something.


Brian said...

C'mon Planning Board. Get with it!

Anonymous said...

My understanding is the Planning Board is about to release the Gen Plan amendment. This was discussed in the last two meetings if anyone cared to attend. An additional August meeting was cancelled due to one member being hospitalized and the death of the another member's mother. The timing of this conference call on the heals of these unforseen disruptions is unfortunate, unsupportive, and not very civil. Perhaps it is the system (the process) that is dysfunctional as the Planning Board tries to diligently review the largest and most complex zoning case to come before a public body in decades. The Zoning Regulation Amendment process is not very citizen friendly. In addition, who is leading this charge among our elected officials? Let's not point fingers at the Planning Board when the blame for this fiasco can be spread around liberally.

Anonymous said...

The Planning Board is already "with it" and should use as much time as they determine is necessary to responsibly execute the formidable duties for which they were appointed and volunteered. I expect they'll they apply very detailed scrutiny to both what was claimed and included in the ZRA 113 proposal and what wasn't before making any recommendation.

Anonymous said...

It's not the appointed PB role to delve into every detail of complex legislation or to apply very detailed scrutiny. If they did feel that need, they needed to add more meetings to get it done in a reasonable time.

The County and the Council would not be able to take a year to deliberate. WHy should an non-elected body whose opinion is only advisory be able to take as long as they want? It's irresponsible to not offer a thought, any thought in a reasonable period of time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the plan board is behaving responsibly on this monumental change. Maybe they know we have a third world sewer system and dump raw sewage into the chesapeake regularly. This zra stinks even before it's passed, and will stink much more afterward.

You want 5500 new residences? Work to fix the infrastructure that currently malfunctions with present population numbers.

B. Santos said...

Anon 7:21,

How many gallons of untreated sewage are discharged to the Chesapeake each year from HoCo? From what parts of the county is this sewage from?

Anon 10:13,

Other than having a process where the public (and public advocacy groups) are allowed to testify at the Planning Board level and County Council level, and all (well, most) meetings open to the public (and sparsely attended by the public) what is lacking in the public process?

What is the better ZRA process?

Have you contacted your County Council representative to institute this better process, or are you keeping it to yourself?

Anonymous said...

Come on Santos. Residents are not even notified when a freaking gas station is proposed next door.

Anonymous said...

There's a new report out today from the patuxent riverkeepers showing raw sewage. Prior research shows this is from a variety of sources, including Howard. Contact them.

Anonymous said...

Here’s what a resident would need to do to get information from a sign posted for a zoning change request:

1) Notice the sign
2) Stop the car
3) Find Pen
4) Find Paper
5) Write down pertinent information
6) Access internet
7) Google Howard County Planning and Zoning
8) Sift through county DPZ website to locate a target to contact
9) Phone the target
10) Phone again when call not returned
11) Obtain proper contact info from person contacted
12) Phone new person at plan and zone
13) Phone again when not returned
14) Contact operator at plan and zone to obtain email
15) Access email account
16) Email plan and zone contact
17) Wait
18) Make contact with person at plan and zone, ask questions
19) Ask more questions as they are citing code and are not speaking in laymen’s terms
20) May need to do more research to determine the proximity to their home, and subsequent impact
21) Attend meetings
22) Attend more meetings
23) Access internet, lookup representative’s names, and contact info
24) Access email and send messages to representatives
25) Witness resident testimony
26) Witness summary dismissal of everything residents put forward
27) Witness change in zoning.

To say this is not citizen friendly is an understatement. People have every right to do what they want with their own property but when zoning changes are pursued those rights must include the surrounding communities after everyone involved purchased property with one zoning class and a new zoning category is requested, though that is not how our system works now.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I agreed 100% with WordBones' article and enjoyed reading these posts. I think 10:13 writer has hit on a very important point. The PB may not be acocuntable to the citizens, but our County Council is and it is the Council that has allowed this to lag on. Assuming the PB DOES in fact get the GPA out next week, hopefully our elected County Council will move it along with more urgency and hold the PB to a strict deadline on the ZRA. Let's all stand up to make sure these people don't cost us this important oppotunity.

B. Santos said...

Anon 8:45,

Funny, the last gas station proposed in Howard County had many, many people out to discuss the station. I have witnessed these meetings at the temporary county building myself. I would imagine that many of these people were notified before each of these meetings about the possibility of a gas station.

Anonymous said...

So, the gas station is going in, correct? Regardless of citizen input against it.

I'd like to change the zoning and put in a gas station beside the residence of every board and council member who approves. And then go on to those of you who support changing zoning and destroying neighborhoods.

wordbones said...

Anon 7:14 AM,

Are you referring to the gas station that was recently approved for the Waverly Woods Shopping Center?

Even though a gas station in a shopping center is about as logical place for a gas station to be (in Columbia it was considered a key element of a village center) it still took the operator two years to get though the process to get it approved because of citizen input.

This particular gas station is not going next to anyones home but that didn't stop folks from using the process to stop something that, for whatever reason, they simply didn't like.


Anonymous said...

There will be no more shopping center based on research. Again, zoning changes pulled the rug from under the owner of Waverly Woods by unexpectedly approving a vast expansion in the Turf Valley grocery size.

NEITHER ARE UNION, people. The owners of Waverly, the residents are f'd.

Now they are left with a gas station that will bring non-residents off Rt. 70 through their neighborhood, VERY different than a grocery.

Anonymous said...

What would it take for the cheer leaders of unplanned zoning change to put feet to earth and drop the pom poms?

Adult bookstores in your mid-rise apartment complex first floor? A commercial weekend & evening daycare next door? It's no different for others, folks. No different.