Many task force members have expressed frustration with the difficulty they experience when trying to become informed about the processes and procedures of various zoning matters within the county. To address this issue, I would like to suggest that DPZ endeavor to inform the public about the existence and role of the Howard County Zoning Counsel.
Title 10, Subtitle 16 of the Howard County Code permits the County Council to employ Zoning Counsel (currently, Eileen Powers, Esq.). I have set forth below the relevant sections of the law that describes the role of Zoning Counsel. One of the statutory functions of Zoning Counsel is to inform the public about the process and procedures of various zoning matters. Zoning Counsel cannot provide legal advice or represent a private party, but can inform the public about the procedures involved in zoning matters. The role and function of Zoning Counsel is not well known to the public. As you can see from the statutory excerpt below, Zoning Counsel can even attend certain pre-submission community meetings if directed by the County Council.
My Constructive Comment #2 is for DPZ to inform the public about the existence and role of the Howard County Zoning Counsel.
SUBTITLE 10. ZONING COUNSEL*
*Editor's note: Section 1 of C.B. 77, 1995, repealed former subtitle 10, §§ 16.1000--16.1012, relating to growth management and derived from C.B. 43, 1989; C.B. 98, 1989; C.B. 104, 1989; C.B. 55, 1990; C.B. 61, 1990; C.B. 62, 1990; and C.B. 12, 1991. Subsequently, C.B. 37, 2000 added a new section 16.1000 pertaining to zoning counsel.
Sec. 16.1000. Zoning Counsel.
(a) The County Council may employ a Zoning Counsel on a part-time, contractual basis. The Zoning Counsel shall be a member in good standing of the Bar of the Maryland Court of Appeals and at the time of appointment shall have been actively engaged in the general practice of law for at least 5 years.
(b) A decision to enter into a contract with an individual to perform the duties of Zoning Counsel shall be made by an affirmative vote of at least 3 Council members. A decision to terminate a Zoning Counsel's contract shall be made by an affirmative vote of at least 4 Council members.
(c) The Zoning Counsel shall appear at all zoning board hearings on requests for piecemeal zoning map amendments for the purposes of producing evidence and testimony supporting comprehensive rezoning and facilitating the compilation of a complete record.
(d) In the performance of these duties the Zoning Counsel may:
(1) Present evidence and witnesses;
(2) Examine and cross-examine witnesses;
(3) Present argument; and
(4) Take any other action necessary to perform these duties.
(e) The budget for the Zoning Counsel shall be included in the County Council budget.
(f) The Zoning Counsel may retain expert witnesses and compensate them to the extent that the Council budget includes funds for such compensation.
(g) The Zoning Counsel shall be available:
(1) To any person interested in any zoning matter to advise as to procedures before a county agency or board, provided that when doing so the Zoning Counsel does not engage in the practice of law or render individual legal advice; and
(2) To any group to speak about zoning procedures in the county.
(h) The Zoning Counsel shall attend certain pre-submission community meetings, as necessary. The County Council shall determine whether or not the Zoning Counsel shall attend certain pre-submission community meetings to advise any person or group of procedural matters.
(i) The Zoning Counsel:
(1) Does not represent the county, any government agency or any private party;
(2) Is not a party and does not have a right of appeal in connection with any case before the Board of Appeals;
(3) May not represent any client involving land use in Howard County; and
(4) May not represent any client before the Zoning Board or Board of Appeals for 1 year after leaving the Office of Zoning Counsel.
(i) On or before July 1 of each year, the Zoning Counsel shall submit to the Council and the County Executive a report on the activities of the office in the past year.
(C.B. 37, 2000; C.B. 58, 2005; C.B. 8, 2006, § 1)
Secs. 16.1001--16.1012. Reserved.