Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Legislating to the County Executive’s Office

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, July 10, 2006

Ken Ulman has introduced 4 Council Bills in what he bills as a strategy to “Give Residents A Greater Voice In Land Use”.  Well he said he would legislate his way to the County Executive’s office.  He meant it.

As we know from Comp-Lite Mr. Ulman had the opportunity but failed to “Giver Residents A Greater Voice In Land Use” where he didn’t give the residents of St. John’s Lane any opportunity to provide input.

Then he hangs his hat on the Charrette,

“I’m just so pleased with the Charrette,” Ken said. “Every participant had a chance to be heard, to share their vision for the future of Columbia’s downtown. Admittedly, the process was not perfect and some may not be pleased with the final product. However, the guiding principle of the Charrette—that all voices are heard and given equal weight—was followed, and the resulting master plan will reflect this.”

Faced with the first hard evidence that the planning process isn’t working what does Ken say about that input?

However, the proposal to build up to 5,500 more residential units has always seemed “ludicrous” given that the county has no mass transit system, said Howard County Council member Kenneth Ulman, a Democrat who represents Town Center.

He is right that with density that high mass transist needs to be addressed, but why didn’t he bring this up earlier?  His commute is pretty easy compared to the rest of us and I doubt he has to frequent rush hour like the rest of us do.  So it probably isn’t top of mind for him.  Now here is a chance for him to get out in front on another infrastructure issue.  Start screaming about water and sewer now.  We knew roads were going to be a problem, but not a word until it hits the papers.

Back to his legislative assault.  Here is how Mr. Ulman describes his proposed legislation.

  • Allow the zoning board (which is the County Council) to request voluntary mediation in certain cases. When mediation is utilized the results are non-binding and must be completed in 45-days or it will end. The zoning board will make the final decision. The parties requesting the zoning changes will pay the cost of the mediation.

This is completely meaningless.  The State Constitution doesn’t allow for it and will not recognize it.  It has no teeth at all.  What is more he knows it.  This is feel good legislation so he can say he is giving citizens a greater voice.

  • Require staff and traffic reports to be available to the public 14 days in advance of zoning hearings.

Currently they are due 7 days in advance.  Now he wants them 14 days in advance.  If they are not availabe in advance of zoning hearings can’t he as a member of the zoning board decline to review petitions until these reports are ready?  What does this give to the citizens?  Looks good and feels good, but net zero gain.

Additionally, in order to comply with APFO they need to submit traffic studies prior to submitting an application anyway.

(e)   Traffic To Be Considered in Determining Adequacy:  In determining whether a project passes the test for adequate road facilities, the following traffic shall be considered as existing when the subdivision or land development is completed: 

(1)   Traffic existing at the time of application.

(2)   Background traffic growth.

(3)   Traffic generated by proposed subdivisions which have passed the test for adequate road facilities prior to submission of the application for approval of the project but have not yet been recorded.

(4)   Traffic generated by proposed site developments which passed the test for adequate road facilities prior to submission of the application for approval of the project but have not yet received site development plan approval.

(5)   Traffic generated by subdivisions or site development plans which passed the test for adequate road facilities and were recorded or approved prior to submission of the application for approval of the project and which are scheduled to be completed before or during the scheduled completion year of the proposed project.

(6)   Traffic generated by the proposed project.

  • Post larger signs on properties requesting a zoning change so citizens can easily read them.

Signage must be 4 feet by 4 feet and at least 2 inches typeface.  That helps a lot thank you very much.

  • Require convenient public meetings so citizens can attend them.

What does this mean?  They must be held in the effected community today.  This proposes that they be within 3 miles of the effected community.  Is he saying that each of our communities spans 6 or more miles?  Is St. John’s lane that big?  He adds a couple of additional holidays to this too.

How about requiring having public meetings where the developer has to be there or at least someone who knows what they are talking about and not a sacrificial lamb.

Councilman Ulman said the bills “move us in the direction of giving citizens and communities a stronger voice in the process.” (Baltimore Sun, July 2, 2006.)

As I was reading through these bills I could not imagine how Calvin Ball must feel.  He is being trained in County politics by Ken Ulman and Guy Guzzone.  They are ruining the poor guy.  How can they pass the red face test?

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