Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Zoning Legislation Testimony

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, July 17, 2006

For the most part almost everyone supported Council Bills 57, 58 and 59.  The Ellicott City Residents Association took that position, as did HCCA, and the League of Women Voters (I hope my notes are correct).  Two people (Steve Cohen was one of them) came out and praised Ball, Guzzone, and Ulman for taking on a tough problem and chided anyone for suggesting the legislation was motivated by election year politics.  They also absolutely and clearly supported the legislation, with a lot of changes and clarifications – in other words they want it amended.

As for CB56 most people said that mediation is not the right tool to use in the zoning process.  Regardless of mediations many positives – it just doesn’t belong here.  Many expressed the same thoughts as I did on the enforceablity of mediation outcomes.  Calvin Ball told those in council chambers that he is a professional mediator and extolled the virtues and benefits of mediation.  I have no doubts about the benefits of mediation and no one said anything derogatory about mediation.  I don’t think he heard us.  It doesn’t have any place in the zoning process.  I came out in opposition to mediation, but said I would support it if it were enforceable.  Honestly though – it will never be enforceable.

All in all I think that Ball, Guzzone, and Ulman will amend the legislation.

The writer below added an interesting perspective to the entire process reserving most of their comments to mediation, but addressed all four bills.  He makes a very good point and its worth reading.

Anyone else who would like me to post their testimony (with credit or anonymously) let me know by email dwk(@)verizon.net

_______________________________

A writer forwarded his testimony to me.  The person requested to remain anonymous.  Although they testified publicly the internet can be an uncomfortable place for some people.  I spoke with them after testimony and was given the impression that a lot more people with his background are so fed up with a lot of the abuses and undue influence of certain elected officials that they are going to start coming forward to tell us what they know.  The people that manage the process can’t keep up with the people who won’t abide by or keep changing the process.

Testimony.

Before getting into my specific testimony, let me give a little background information about myself. [Edited to protect the writer’s anonymity. Suffice it to say that he has an extensive background in zoning issues].

There are several reasons for my opposition to these Bills. First and foremost, there is no need for the measures proposed in these bills. Current laws and regulations already require posting of properties, notification to adjoining property owners, and pre-submission meetings with the developer to explain what is being proposed. When implemented several years ago, those regulations opened the process for residents and property owners adjacent or near to proposed developments so that they were aware of the projects at the initial stage of the review process instead of at the start of construction.

Second, the proposal to use mediation to resolve land use disputes would be detrimental, not beneficial, to everybody involved in the development process; developers, consultants, and especially the citizens of Howard County. Mediation would take a system that already somewhat ambiguous and make it completely ambiguous. Every law and regulation could become, and inevitably would become, “negotiable”. Developers could wheel and deal to circumvent the laws and force opponents to make concessions that wouldn’t otherwise be allowed. Citizens could throw an endless barrage of obstacles at developers to impede or stop a development even if the plan does comply with the laws. Consultants and engineers would be hopelessly caught in the middle since they would never know what laws and regulations would or would not apply, from one project to the next. The Government is expected to set up laws and regulations to create a clear process to which all parties must adhere. Mediation would instead lead to an uncertain, arbitrary process which would implode on itself, to the detriment of all.

Lastly, if these bills are passed, as the development process becomes more ambiguous and arbitrary, it will open the door to abuse. One need look no further that the past actions of elected officials to see what kind of abuse and interference in the review process already occurs. (emphasis added by me)

In conclusion, I strongly urge the Council to vote against Council Bills 56, 57, 58, and 59. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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4 Responses to “Zoning Legislation Testimony”

  1. Anonymous said

    Open Process? Community Input?

    Mr. Guzzone, wasn’t it you that interceded on behalf of a friend of yours who resides on Brighton Dam Road and applied for a waiver petition (WP-03-145) to obtain direct access onto that road, which is restricted because of the classification for that road? The Petitioner did not submit adequate information such as a sight distance study, which is required. The waiver was never approved, but the Petitioner constructed his driveway nonetheless, in violation of the Subdivision Regulations and the existing record plat, which was never re-recorded. And, that file has not been seen in the DPZ file cabinet since that time, and I know this because I have periodically checked. I don’t suppose you would know where that file is, would you? Maybe it will suddenly show up in the file drawer tomorrow morning.

    And, wasn’t it you, Mr. Guzzone, that interfered in the review process for a project on Route 1 called Hill Street Apartments, even going so far as to invite yourself to interactive meetings between the developer and DPZ staff, at which time you gave orders for parking requirements to be reduced and for standard design requirements for drive aisle spacing and location to be ignored, thereby compromising public safety? Can the residents of that project request mediation with you when they have nowhere to park or if they get into an accident?

    And you Mr. Ulman, how about your involvement in the Iron Bridge Wine Company site plan, located on Route 108, just west of Centennial Lane? When nearby residents involved themselves in the process and noticed discrepancies between what was approved under the Wine Company’s non-conforming use expansion plan and the proposed site plan, didn’t you intervene on behalf of the developer and owner and threaten to re-zone the property to commercial if the residents didn’t be quiet and go away? Ultimately the owner and developer were allowed to not fully comply with the Zoning and Subdivision Regulations. In fact, construction was already completed and the business was in operation before a site plan was approved or a permit issued.

  2. hocomd said

    Has it started?

  3. Anonymous said

    About the private driveway on a restricted access road, the engineering file in DED still exists, only the zoning file has gone missing. Of interest is the fact that no engineering study was done to ensure that safe sight distance exists at that location. More interesting is the fact that the property owner gave Guzzone a $200 contribution around that time. Did he have to pay $1000 or more for the proper engineering analysis for the public safety and getting a private drive on a restricted access road?

    There may have been adequate sight distance, but as far as I know no engineer ever looked at it and the process was clearly violated.

    On the comp lite issue, someone should research each of the 36 individual zoning changes to see who benefitted from the zoning change and then check the contributions database to see if there are any matches. If they were smart, they would not have given $$ directly, but I would bet they thought no one would check and didn’t do it that way.

  4. […] Consistent with what I wrote yesterday, however without any immediate feedback from readers.  Read the comments from yesterday’s post and you will know what I mean. […]

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