Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Dems Zoning Overhaul – in trouble

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, June 12, 2006

Well, I don’t know how far this will go.  I think opposition is lining up on all sides, and I do mean all sides.  Keep your ears open and a ground swell of opposition is rising under our feets on this one.

Will Jim Robey step in and temper the flames shooting up on this proposal?

Some of the concerns I have heard expressed on “both sides of the aisle” are:

  • This is a “Divide and conquer” approach to zoning.
  • The new zoning areas would align with the current councilmatic districts, thereby increasing the influence of that council member in the process.  More power in one person’s hands would result in that other council members will defer to the interests of that council member and a quid pro quo would develop.  As such any adherence to a County Wide plan would go out the window.
  • Could potentially circumvent the referndum process that Angie Beltram recently and wisely used.
  • It is a rash move that requires longer than 60 days to consider regardless of how much thought Mr. Guzzone put into it (although I suspect if the legislation is submitted it will have Ken Ulman’s name on it).
  • Any change to the comprehensive zoning process needs thorough discussion with the community outside the influence of a looming election.
  • This proposal is not acceptable
  • This is a power grab

Merdon and Feaga’s position…

… called the move a political ploy to tamp down some voters’ anger at the way the Democrat-controlled council handled the last round of comprehensive rezoning, which resulted in part of the decision being petitioned to this November’s ballot.

County planning director Marsha McLaughlin

“It’s trying to make the (rezoning) process easier for folks to follow,”

I think she should pay better attention to her incoming mail

Ken Ulman

…anticipates a July 17 vote on the proposal

Maybe this is part of Mr. Ulman’s plan to legislate his way to County Executive in response to inquiries about Merdon’s campaign van (a clever idea).  As the saying going “Throw enough spaghetti against the wall and some is bound to stick.”  If Mr. Ulman isn’t careful it may end up being “spaghetti in the eye”.


7 Responses to “Dems Zoning Overhaul – in trouble”

  1. Hayduke said

    It’s no wonder why the zoning process is so broken…try to suggest an alternative and you’re immediately villified as “pro-developer/anti-citizen.”

    I’ve heard all the criticism you have (I think we’re reading the same listservs). What I haven’t heard, however, are other ideas about how to change the process.

    Ulman proposed an idea to deal with this mess and sparked a discussion, which is more than you can say about any other candidate. The only way the royally screwed up process will change is with discussion. How can we have a reasonable discussion about changes if every idea is attacked?

    What’s more, as I said on one of the listservs today, this proposal isn’t really radical. It is based on the same planning processes used in Baltimore, Frederick and Prince George’s Counties, among numerous others around the country.

    Many of the criticisms you list are not based on facts, on the experiences of other communities using this type of planning. They’re based, instead, on conjecture, speculation and intuition, rather than facts, data and case studies. Is that really the best way to have a discussion.

    I urged the organization on whose listserv to help foster an honest, empirically-based discussion on zoning process improvements. I still have not heard a reply to my request.

    For what it’s worth, Ulman agreed not to introduce parts of his legislation (those related to amending the comp zoning process) tonight at the COPE Forum. He did, however, state that he will continue to push for the other parts of his proposal — namely, those requiring developers to put up larger signs for piecemeal rezoning, requiring DPZ to release technical staff reports 14 days before a meeting, and scheduling pre-submission meetings at times that are actually convenient for citizens.

  2. Hayduke said

    I want to add that I still don’t know how I feel about the proposal — and frankly, at this point, I don’t really care.

    I just want to see a more honest, thoughtful discussion. Anytime I see an echo chamber, I run. I don’t read liberal blogs for precisely this reason. I don’t need people to validate my thoughts. I need challenges.

  3. hocomd said

    Hayduke, I’ll refer you to the following.
    Another alternative worth considering.

  4. Hayduke said

    As one part of the development process overhaul, perhaps, but fiscal impact studies alone will not correct all problems, which start with finding a way to more meaningfully involve citizens. And, by this I don’t just mean opening the process, but actually engaging and getting participation. For all the participatory goodness of the charrette, only 400 or so people showed up for the first meeting, a miniscule fraction of the population of our county (and it was on a Saturday).

    Since giving more power to the citizens seems to be a major theme of P&Z, how do we convince the citizens to take that power and responsiblity? Being involved in development stuff takes a lot of time and energy, neither of which are in surplus in most people’s lives. So how do we make it easier and more convenient for citizens to be involved? That, it seems, is the question we should start with.

  5. hocomd said


    I think that is exactly the issue. Encouraging greater participation outside of referendums and Charette’s.

    Although the Charette process is getting input from the citizens I think their is a sense that their input is not being taken seriously – I only get that sense from reading Evan’s blog.

    It comes down to an interest in the subject and time. Then it comes down to actually acting on citizen input.

  6. Harold Bernadzikowski said

    The problem with Mr. Ulman’s proposal is that his actions are part of the problem. Mr. Ulman wants a more open process, but he is the same person who threatened the neighbors of the Iron Bridge Wine Company with re-zoning the Iron Bridge property if the residents did not cease their opposition to the back-door deals that he had made with the developer and the County, to not have to follow all of the regulations and laws that are already in place! Go and talk to the neighbors if you want to really know how Ken treats concerned citizens. If Mr. Ulman can’t follow the current rules and procedures, how would changing the process help out? Similarly, Mr. Ulman wants to take credit for the charette for Town Center. The truth behind that whole charade is that Ulman and Guzzone had already worked out some deal with GGP to guarantee additional density if GGP left Merriweather Post Pavilion alone. If the involved citizens supported his plan, then he could take full credit for everything (which he has in his campaign info), or if problems arise he can blame on the citizens by saying that the additional density was the “will of the people”. Problem is that many of the people now realize that the whole process was rigged, by Ulman and Guzzone, from the get go. So again, how would Mr. Ulman’s proposal help the good citizens of the County when behind the scenes, he’s manipulating the process and breaking laws? Never mind that there is no water or sewer capacity for more residences in Town Center (oops Ken, I guess you didn’t think about that before you spent $250,000 of the County’s money) or that his vision of Town Center, which is already congested according to all of the residents who testified against the development plans for the Crescent Property, would significantly increase congestion problems (6,000 more residences is a lot of vehicle trips per day). I wonder if Ken will take “credit” for that.

  7. […] Is Comp Lite even legal?: Views = 99 Keelan for Howard County Republican Central Committee: Views = 99 Vacation Open Thread: Views =  94 County Executive – Wallis to run: Views =  84 Going Negative…already: Views =  77 Hatch Act Letter to the Baltimore Sun: Views =  74 Drum roll please…. : Views = 71 Me and Martin O’Malley: Views =  62 It takes all kinds… : Views =  61 Cattails, Campaigns & Cat Fights: Views =  59 GOP Central Committee Straw Poll Results: Views =  54 Elitist Comments: Views =  46 Vote for Keelan? : Views =  46 Dems Zoning Overhaul – in trouble: Views =  43 Poll Update: Views =  42 […]

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