Friday, February 29, 2008

Committee three input last of three posts with input from Tim, Brian, Bill and Susan

Brian, I want to thank you for recording our ideas from Saturday's
meeting. I suggest the following change and addition.
(Your second item)
Public input maybe ignored by the developer. Developers are only
required to inform the public and adhere to the zoning law. The public
needs to understand the zoning laws and what type of input is relevant.
Land development that requires site specific zoning changes should be
required to (1)post the property, (2)hold a public meeting with a site
specific map and the specific zoning changes requested BEFORE the zoning
board votes on the zoning changes.
-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 1:42 PM
Subject: Meeting notes
Hi Bill and Susan, Here are my notes, let me know what you think. Brian
// -->
PELU Committee 3 meeting Feb.23rd 2008
Bill Susan and Brian attending at Mad City Café 8.00 am

Public input seems to come too late and at the wrong time this leads to frustration.

When the public gives input it is ignored by the developer (Susan’s comment related to giving testimony at a Preliminary Development Plan meeting)

The processes given to us show public input in various places but misses recent changes that allow public input when the Preliminary Development Plan is submitted.

The public has opportunities to give input on land use before land is developed.
1. Direct input to councilors to change the “General Plan” for their area.(legislative changes)
2. With “text amendments”
3. When “General Plan” comes up for renewal.

Ideas to improve input once developer starts a development.
1. Place signs so they can be read from the street even if this means putting it on edge of hard shoulder.
2. Have a box on the sign with DPZ handout that shows the whole process. The handout should also tell the public the type of input applicable or relevant. This information could also be available from an automated phone system. By dialing an extension the details of the proposed plan could be explained by the developer.
3. Let ALL local village boards and associations know about any development in their area. The developer should be able to get information on these boards and associations from the DPZ.
4. Have a set place in the local newspapers for information on public hearings.
5. A place in the council office building where testimony could be given by using “web cam” technology.
6. Allow testimony by video e-mail.
7. The video screen in the entrance of the office building could be used to explain the type of testimony that would be applicable and relevant to the particular hearing or hearings that night.
8. In cases where the DPZ holds a public hearing in a district, then something comes up or they find out something has been forgotten that affects that district, then those attending the meeting should be informed and another meeting held. (ref. Changes made after Dist. 5 meeting, “tall buildings” being left out of the downtown charrette process).
9. Uniformity in regulations, public input should be the same in each regulation.
Committee 3:

My thoughts involve a bigger change with a deeper impact…

The PELU taskforce and subcommittee 3 have enumerated many suggestions for improving public engagement in the land use process. Implementing many of these suggestions would enhance public involvement.

A bigger step in the array of possibilities would be to raise the level of public involvement by requiring a much higher level of early dialogue and formal community votes before a proposed zoning changes reach the Planning Board.

The current County review process for development projects is falling short in three ways…
The citizens note a feeling of exclusion and a lack of meaningful involvement in the current process.
There is no mechanism for economic review to insure that the County is getting a fair deal in their partnership with developers.
There is no professional design review to inure that good innovations are promoted and bad design is blocked.
Except for relatively informal preliminary community meetings and technical reviews by the County staff, it is possible for a project to reach the planning board with only a minimum of citizen input and no economic or design review. The resulting citizen frustration is expressed in hours of passionate testimony on items that have little impact or legal relevance while important community issues are ignored. Given the level of community intelligence, we can do better in addressing all of these shortfalls.

The County has an opportunity to accomplish community enhancements like full spectrum housing and sustainable design by harnessing the energy of the marketplace for the common good. To insure that the proposed changes benefit the County we need three types of advisory reviews prior to projects reaching the Planning Board (PB). A DAP (design advisory panel) is nearly ready for legislative action. HCCA is making a bold initiative in convening a session on the economics of development. Setting up an ERP (economic review panel) would be the next logical step.

Citizen input is still fuzzy, inconsistent and often seems to be ignored. This could be remedied by having a known process with meaningful votes taken at the grassroots level. The most significant and first review should happen as a dialogue in a Community Review Process (CRP). This process could be broadly applied. The steps in this process for land development might look like the following…

An advocating developer or land owner, call them the advocate (AD), sees a need that can be addressed by enhancing the use of vacant or previously under developed parcel(s). The AD gains the agreement of the parcel owners who act in unison.
The AD starts the process by filing a short written notice of intention (NOI) accompanied by a simple delineation of the affected land parcels. The AD pays the County a fee (F1) for organizing the initial community meeting (CM1) and to cover the initial County administrative costs.
The appointed County Facilitator (CF) advertises the NOI and posts the included parcels for the CM1 to be held in 21 days after filing at a nearby school or government facility.
The CF runs the CM1 where the AD presents their NOI and the community presents their thoughts on appropriate community goals and objections in response. The object of the CM1 is to establish project goals and set forth the stages of the CRP for the interchanges between the AD and the community that will come. Late in the CM1, the facilitator will seek nominations from those attending for a 7 person community review committee (CRC). If more than 7 candidates are proposed, the makeup of the CRC will be determined by an election of citizens attending the meeting. The County will document thoughts expressed at the CM1 by transcribing any recoded comments and compiling written submissions in a written CM1s -Initial Community Meeting summary.
Within 14 days, the CRC will meet with the CF to organize itself, elect a chairperson, discuss relevant issues, solidify their concerns and identify County resources that need to be tapped. The CRC should review and sign off on the County prepared CM1 summary, adding its own emphasis on important points to consider. This summary will be forwarded to the AD within 21 days of the CM1 and posted on the internet by the County.
Assuming that the AD wants to continue the process, a second fee (F2) will be paid to the County sufficient to cover, County costs and initial impact assessments (IIA) to be conducted by the County personnel and a second round of community meetings (CM2).
The AD will prepare conceptual plans and may post those plans on the County web site prior to the CM2 or may decide that his proposal is best presented directly to the community with a verbal presentation at the CM2. At the CM2, the AD will present conceptual plans that respond to the CM1s and solicit feedback from the County and Community. The CF and CRC will solicit responses and dialogue from those attending.
In some smaller or non controversial projects, the AD’s response and community reaction may warrant a final formal vote of those attending CM2 to ascertain and document the community’s recommendation on the presented concept. The written vote shall be written and have 4 options:
Approved as presented
Rejected as inappropriate
Approved with limitations (listed),
More information necessary (list specific concerns).
After the vote of the vote by the attendees at CM2, the CRC will have a ratifying vote that reflects their own sentiment and follows the same format as the vote of the attendees. The votes will be complied by the county with a summary posted on the County internet site. The votes and accompanying documentation will be sent to the Planning Board –PB for their consideration.
If the project scope warrants or if the AD or County requires it, the project can go through additional community meetings to detail the developer approach and refine the project. CM2, CM3, CM etc. At each meeting the sentiment of both the attendees and the CRC will be measured by a formal vote.
To allow for more thorough study, the CF or CRC may require the developer to pay additional fees (F3) to cover the costs of other analysis (such as transportation – environmental impact, LEED, or other consultant studies).
On a parallel track, if required by law or by the request of the CF or CRC, the project may undergo economic review and design review.
The purpose of the economic review panel (ERP) will be to review the project economics. The project will need to have sufficient design development to allow costing of construction and other economic burdens. These costs will be compared with community needs to determine whether the project is a true partnership between the AD who will make a reasonable profit and the community who will gain amenities or address community needs. The standing ERP committee will receive written and-or oral input from the CRP at the beginning of their sessions and shall stay acquainted with the continuing actions of the CRP. Multiple sessions across the table form the AD may be required to fully comprehend the project economics. After a dialogue with the AD, the ERP will forward their professional view of the project economics.
The purpose of the DAP will be to review aspects of the AD’s proposal to ascertain whether issues related specifically to the technical parts of the design are being adequately addressed by the proposal. Do opportunities exist for design improvement? After a dialogue with the AD, the ERP will forward their professional view of the project economics.
The CRC, ERP and DAP will mutually inform each other and may hold joint sessions prior to their final actions on a project.
Having already engaged the community, when a proposal reaches the PB or ZB (Zoning Board) testimony could be limited to written submissions and dialogue with selected community members who have given evidence of some special knowledge that is relevant.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail - Thanks,

Tim Sosinski, AIA

Saturday, February 23, 2008

RE: PELU Working Committees

ORG:Reese & Carney, LLP
TITLE:Attorney at Law
TEL;WORK;VOICE:(410) 740-4600
TEL;CELL;VOICE:(443) 864-8844
TEL;WORK;FAX:(410) 730-7729
ADR;WORK:;;10715 Charter Drive, Suite 200;Columbia;Maryland;21044;United States of America
LABEL;WORK;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:10715 Charter Drive, Suite 200=0D=0AColumbia, Maryland 21044=0D=0AUnited Sta=
tes of America
Committee 3 is holding its first meeting on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 8 am. We will meet for coffee at Mad City Café (located at Cedar Lane and Hickory Ridge Road. Meeting is open to all.


William E. Erskine, Esq.
Reese & Carney, LLP
10715 Charter Drive, Suite 200
Columbia, Maryland 21044
(Office) 410-740-4600
(Facsimile) 410-730-7729
(Cell) 443-864-8844

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Re: PELU Working Committees

If any committee sets a meeting time or place, please email the group.


James P. Howard, II

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FW: PELU Working Committees

From Theo Wimberly:



Below you will find a list of initial committee assignments that I complied from last week's meeting.  Please review the list and make sure that I am accurate (there was some last minute switches that I may have missed). 


Also, there were several members who were unable to attend the last meeting.  Therefore, the co-Chairs are requesting that you review the list below, use the suggestions made by Andy Stack in his proposal (see attached), and let me know on which committees you would be interested in serving. 


The Committees should begin meeting and choose a facilitator and recorder as soon as you are able.  Our next overall task force meeting is scheduled for 2/28/08 at 5pm.    


Committee 1- educate the public about land use process and decisions

Bill Lewis, Cathy Hudson, Judy Fisher George, Deb Poquette, and Frank Mirabile 


Committee 2 - improve the General Plan, comprehensive zoning and regional issues

Susan Scheidt, Ada Louise Bohorfoush, Julia Mattis, Ron Schimel 


Committee 3 - improve the land use process in terms of piecemeal zoning, variances, planning board interaction, subdivision process, and the hearing examiner

Tim Sosinski, Brian England, Susan Scheidt, Bridget Mugane, Julia Mattis, Bill Erskine

Re: rating and validating proposals

On Feb 19, 2008 1:38 PM, Bridget Mugane <> wrote:

> I am waiting for our co-chairs to send us an e-mail saying who is on which
> committee, so that we can set committee meeting dates.

I received it a few minutes ago. The following individuals have
volunteered for the following committees:

Committee 1- educate the public about land use process and decisions
Bill Lewis, Cathy Hudson, Judy Fisher George, Deb Poquette, and Frank Mirable

Committee 2 - improve the General Plan, comprehensive zoning and regional issues
Susan Scheidt, Ada Louise Bohorfoush, Julia Mattis, Ron Schimel

Committee 3 - improve the land use process in terms of piecemeal
zoning, variances, planning board interaction, subdivision process,
and the hearing examiner
Tim Sosinski, Brian England, Susan Scheidt, Bridget Mugane, Julia
Mattis, Bill Erskine

Everyone, if you were not at the last Task Force meeting, please
volunteer for one of these committees as you see fit. These
committees will consider proposals that fall within their broad
general mandate to improve public engagement in that part area of land
use planning. Please let Mr. Erskine or myself know if you have
volunteered for a particular committee.


James P. Howard, II

Friday, February 15, 2008

PELU: rating and validating proposals

One of the topics I have brought up a couple of times is how we will
analyze proposals. I'd like to solicit some suggestions for those
questions we might ask about proposals and their effects. I don't
think more than a handful are necessary. Please remember, I am coming
at this from a pure policy angle, and my only goal is to see that all
proposals are fairly considered and the final report of the task force
is analytically sound. From that standpoint, I have five potential
criteria which, while vague, will address most concerns:

1. Effectiveness: Will the proposal increase public engagement in
the land use planning process?
2. Cost of implementation: What is the potential cost increase and
who bears that burden (note, this is not who should, but who will
under the proposal)?
3. Political feasibility: Just what it sounds like. An ugly
question, but it still must be asked. Will relevant stakeholders
support this?
4. Technical feasibility: Is this even possible? Is it easy? What
are the implementation challenges?
5. Indirect consequences: Where can the proposal go wrong? Are
there any positive indirect consequences?

The goal here is not to judge proposals directly, but to provoke
well-grounded critical thinking within a consistent framework. From
here, a ratings framework ought to be developed. Proposals can be
rated, say, 1-5, on each measure. Or they can be rated relative to
each other.

I realize this is a touch academic, but I am a grad student in public
policy, so I come at this with what I know. A bit more on this is
available at

Any thoughts or suggestions?


James P. Howard, II

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Co-Chair For Task Force Needed

At the February 13th meeting, the PELU Task Force will select an additional co-chair to replace Mr. Howard Weinstein. You may already know that Mr. Weinstein had to step down from his position as co-chair due to scheduling conflicts. If you are interested in serving as co-chair, please let me know. Candidates for this position should be representative of the "Residents" constituency of the task force.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Comp Lite Rezoning

PELU may want to ultimately recommend that all rezoning requests require public notice and a hearing. A case in point was the Comp Lite process in 2004 or 2005; this one-time process involved rezoning of over 20 parcels held back from the Comp Rezoning process. Apparently, it bypassed normal public hearing notice and process provisions and led to a firestorm from residents. It included a very large church/social services expansion in a residential neighborhood, and led to a referendum attempt. See the new correspondence below between HCCA, DPZ and two local leaders involved in Comp Lite, including Angie Beltram who started the referendum.

Bridget Mugane

---- Original Message -----
From: Ann Jones
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2008 12:08 PM
Subject: RE: [howard-citizen] Land Use Task Force Meetings
And to add just a brief addition to Angie's comment - the Church on St Johns lane NEVER came before the Route 40 task force. It seems counter-intuitive to maintain that DPZ modified the planning process to solicit input from a group that was never allowed to hear the proposal.

Ann Jones (I served as a co-chair of the Route 40 task force)

Angie Beltram wrote:
What really happened in CompLite is that the County Council, not only set aside Route 40 issues, but set aside other items throughout the county. The most egregious item was the Church on St. Johns Lane that was NEVER included during the Comprehensive Zoning cycle. That was illegal because the Bill stated that CompLite would RECONSIDER items that had already been considered in Comprehensive. The community was taken by surprise and 65 people attended the public hearing on it. However, after speaking with all of the members of the County Council, they were determined to REZONE the property when all other houses of worship are determined by "conditional use" and requires a quasi-judicial public hearing before the Hearing Examiner and must show plans, etc. effect, the Council took away DUE PROCESS from the residential community. There is only one Church in the county similar to this situation and Rev. Dowell has experienced this power of government. There were other problems with CompLite and with Comprehensive Zoning that has now come to light. Maybe, HCCA would sponsor a meeting to show where land uses were changed when there are no requirement of signs of location, specific notification, etc.-----Original Message-----From:[]On Behalf Of Kimberley FlowersSent: Friday, February 01, 2008 10:34 AMTo: howard-citizen@yahoogroups.comSubject: Re: [howard-citizen] Land Use Task Force MeetingsHi Bridget,I apologize for the delayed response to your email message answeringMs. Beltram’s inquiry about Marsha’s presentation. However, it isimportant to clarify your understanding of Marsha's statements about theCompLite process, as communicated at the PELU Taskforce meeting ofJanuary 24th. Marsha made it clear that DPZ only requested deferral ofRoute 40 property owner requests because the Route 40 Taskforce neededto complete its report before the Council acted. She also explainedthat she and DPZ staff have spent considerable time developing ways inwhich the process can be improved for the future.With regard to the "one-time regulation, permitting CompLite", theOffice of Law has requested that Municode make certain that it isdeleted.As always, if you have questions regarding this matter, please feelfree to contact me.Best,Kim FlowersKimberley Amprey FlowersDeputy DirectorDepartment of Planning and ZoningHoward County Government410-313-4340 Direct410-313-3042 Fax

Cancellation of Feb 7th Task Force Meeting

In recognition of the Chinese New Year, the February 7th, 2008 meeting of the task force has been cancelled. The next meeting will be held on February 13, 2008 (6pm - 8 pm).

Process Problems

  1. The rules of the BOA and Hearing Examiner are inconsistent with the Zoning Regulations and the Howard County Code with respect to many procedural requirements.
  2. In order to file an appeal of an administrative decision, an appellant is required to make an appointment with DPZ staff to file the appeal. This requirement is not set forth in either the rules, the regulations or the Code, yet when an appellant appears at DPZ to file an appeal, they are given a hard time filing an appeal if they did not previously make an appointment.
  3. The procedures regarding presummission meetings are set forth in many different sections of the rules and regulations, and are inconsistent in many respects.
  4. People wishing to provide testimony at a public hearing should not be required to attend every hearing date. The rules should be revised to allow those members of the public to provide their testimony the first night they attend, if at all possible. Or, they should be able to "sign up" to testify by sending a letter in writing to the Hearing Authority, It is not fair to make the public participants come the first night to sign up and then keep coming back night after night until they are called.
  5. During comprehensive zoning, map amendment requests should be required to be posted and adjacent property owners should be separately notified of the request and of the hearing date for public testimony.
  6. Comprehensive zoning should be conducted more frequently and staggered by geopgaphic area.

Committee Structure

Task Force Members,

Now that our information sessions are wrapping up, we need to decide how to approach our task.Time is short. I suggest that we consider forming three committees as follows.

Committee 1 would investigate ways to improve information availability and ways to educate the public about land use process and decisions. They could address the issue of community associations.

Committee 2 would investigate ways to improve the General Plan, comprehensive zoning and regional issues.

Committee 3 would investigate ways to improve the land use process in terms of piecemeal zoning, variances, planning board interaction, subdivision process, and the hearing examiner.

Each committee would have 8 members. Each committee would have one representative from each council district. This would help insure a diverse body for each committee. We could give Bill & Howard a list of the committees in ranked order and they could determine the final committee make-up. Each committee would chose a chair and a recorder to keep track of discussions and decisions. Each committee could determine its meeting times. Committee meetings would be open to the entire task force and the public. Each committee would produce a report which summarizes their discussions, recommendations, and rationale for each recommendation.


Andy Stack

Sunday, February 3, 2008



January 29, 2008


  • Approval of Minutes

  • Issues/Announcements (Chairpersons, Task force membership)

-Homework (Top 10 List)

-Future Direction of Task force

*Need for more informational Meetings (Zoning Counsel, DPZ Ombudsperson, Cindy Hamilton, etc.)

*Small groups vs. Large group

*Future Meeting Times

  • DPW Q & A Session (Jim Irvin, Director, Department of Public Works)

  • Planning Board Discussion

  • Open Floor

Next meeting: February 7, 2008, Ellicott Room, 3 – 5 pm



Bridget Mugane, President

Howard County Citizens Association

October 2, 2007

  1. Have Procedures for Testifying before the Planning Board (PB), as does the Council now; make this available in a brochure at the sign-up table.

  2. The PB website needs to be more easily accessible, especially the agenda which should have appended at the bottom, the rules for testifying.

  3. Enlarge opportunities for the public to be heard by the PB: have established, well-publicized e-mail testimony procedures with the record held open as long as possible.

  4. Continue to ensure the PB treats audience members with respect.

  5. Post plain-English explanations of ZRAs if the DPZ technical staff report is difficult to understand or if there is no staff report; have the explanation attached to the agenda ZRA, as the Council now does.

  6. Ensure the public has maximum standing to testify at all stages of development applications, and that deadlines for presubmission meetings are adhered to.

  7. Publicize how people can become an “interested party” and be kept in the loop.

  8. Publicize the fact that people have the right to contact a specified DPZ official to get more information about a proposal or ZRA; that info could be put under each agenda item as part of the plain-English explanation, with the name, phone number and e-mail address of the contact person.

10.Have the PB Rules of Procedure subject to approval by the County Council, to ensure the PB does not restrict the public’s rights.

11. Have the PB use consistent meeting dates, times and places so the public knows when and where to go.

12. Ensure the Technical Staff Report is posted within the allotted time, and if not, postpone the hearing.

13. Have the PB rule on any motions within a specified time stated in the Procedures.

14. Ensure PB Rules of Procedure allow members of the public to cross-examine any witness in quasi-judicial proceedings.

15. Allow sign-up to testify, by e-mail and again if a hearing extends to

another session.

  1. Allow substitution of speakers.

  2. Allow organizations to register their representatives for one year rather than requiring a signed consent from the organization for every hearing.

  3. Prohibit rental of Howard Bldg. rooms for organizations on hearing nights (example: the Chamber and ZRA 90 providing dinner in the

Tyson Room).

  1. HCCA supports the May 10, 2007 recommendations on the Planning Board Procedures.

  2. Improve orientation/information for the Planning Board (PB) members.

    1. Do they have a handbook like the “Planning Commission Duties & Responsibilities” used in Montgomery County?

    2. Are they enrolling in the U. Md. two day course in urban planning as suggested by HCCA?

    3. Do they have a manual with all necessary regs, criteria for review of applications, etc.

  3. Have the DPZ Ombudsman in the chain of command directly under the County Exec; currently the Ombudsman is also a DPZ Deputy Director who naturally represents the interests of DPZ.

  4. Reduce the role of the DPZ Director in PB work sessions; the Director should not sit at the table, but be present as a resource person.

  5. Have the PB’s counsel present at all hearings and work sessions.

  6. Do not allow the PB to call upon developers’ attorneys in work sessions, for their advice while not calling upon knowledgeable members of the public who are present.

  7. Have DPZ reach out to the community and present explanations of green building techniques, how the permitting process works, affordable housing, etc. The recent Ch. 70 program on the land development process was helpful. These could be on the website if possible in text form, on a permanent basis and in brochures on the sign-up table.

  8. Ensure the public has a full opportunity to be heard by any Design Advisory Panel and to submit e-mail comments; all developers’ materials which the DAP will review, should be made available to the public 15 days in advance, by rule.

  9. DPZ officials should describe what action has been taken, if an organization makes recommendations and this should be posted on the website.