Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Board of Appeals Opening

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Howard County Council is seeking applications from individuals interested in serving on the Howard County Board of Appeals.

The Board of Appeals hears zoning appeals, zoning variance appeals and zoning violation appeals.

Apparently the Council would like to move quickly on this since they would like a full board for the first order of business which will be to hear the case of the high rise in Town Center.

If you get through this entire post you will notice a discrepancy relative to due dates for applications.  Speak with your Council member or err on the side of caution and meet the earlier date.

Both Greg Fox and Courtney Watson have sent out information on these two vacancies.  I can’t speak for the other three members of the Council.  From what I am told all five members are very keen on working collaboratively on the appointment of this position and will be interviewing nominees.  They are not looking for experts in zoning law.  They are looking for commited residents.

I have two nominees in mind.  Ian Kennedy and Tom Berkhouse :=)  I had considered it myself, but I am working on other plans.

The Howard County Council is seeking citizens to serve on the County’s Board of Appeals. Members of the Board must be registered voters and residents of the County.

Board members serve overlapping five year terms. The Council currently seeks candidates to fill an unexpired term which ends December 31, 2009 and a full term which ends on December 31, 2011. The vacancies were filled by residents from Council districts 1 and 5.  Geography may be a consideration in selection.

The Board of Appeals is a five-member body, appointed by the County Council. It hears and decides special exceptions, non-conforming uses and appeals of departmental or administrative decisions based on criteria and conditions in the County Zoning Regulations. The Board meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as needed and as scheduled by the Chairperson. In recent years, the Board has met fewer than 20 times per year. Board members receive $4500 per year plus $90 per session, not to exceed $12,900 per year.

Applicants for current or future vacancies on the Board of Appeals are asked to send a letter of interest and a resume to Dr. Sheila Tolliver, Council Administrator, Howard County Council, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Materials will be
accepted by e-mail ( or by fax at 410 313-3297.   Applications will be accepted through December 20, 2006.

I would suggest you notify your council representative that you are interested in the position as well:

District 1: Courtney Watson
District 2: Calvin Ball
District 3: Jen Terrasa
District 4: Mary Kay Sigaty
District 5: Greg Fox

Note from Courtney Watson

The County Council has two vacancies it must fill on the Board of Appeals. The members causing the vacancies are from Council Districts 5 (Western HC) and 1(Ellicott City, Elkridge, Hanover). The Council seeks geographic balance in membership of the Board of Appeals, although this is not always the primary determining factor in choosing a member.

Information about the Board of Appeals and the compensation involved is listed below. If you are interested in applying for the position, the Council is accepting resumes, or letters of interest, through December 22. We plan to have interviews on December 26 and 28 in the late afternoon and/or evening. The entire Council will interview applicants.

We are attempting to nominate members to the vacancies in time for introduction in January (January 2). The members, if approved by the Council, would begin work in early February. If we are not successful in filling both vacancies, we will hold one or both positions open for another month.

If you are interested, please send me an email, and prepare to send a letter of interest and/or resume to the Council Administrator at

Please share the information about these vacancies and the fact that the Council is trying to fill the vacancies as expeditiously (but thoughtfully) as possible. More formal methods of advertising the positions will be handled by the Council Administrator, but I was asked to reach out to my contacts, particularly in District 1, ASAP. Thank you for your help.

Courtney Watson



To hear and decide cases on requests for conditional uses, nonconforming uses, variances to the bulk regulations and departmental appeals.

Number of Members: 5
All members must be residents of Howard County and registered voters; only three may represent the same political party.

Meeting Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays, daytime or early evening in the Ellicott Room, George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043 (Meeting dates and times may vary.)


Albert J. Hayes
Pat Patterson (resigned effective 12/06)
James W. Pfefferkorn (term ends 12/31/06)
Robert C. Sharps
Maurice Simpkins

Board of Appeals members currently are paid $4500 per year plus $90 per meeting up to $12,900 per year. Their rules provide that they will meet on Tuesday and/or Thursday or as called by the Chair. Actually, since we’ve had a hearing examiner, they’ve met much less frequently. In FY 2005 (audited expenses), we spent $4500 base plus enough for about 10 meetings in the year. Caseload varies, of course, depending on the issues in any given year.


24 Responses to “Board of Appeals Opening”

  1. MBT said

    Ulman has started playing politics, I see, despite his comments to the contrary:,0,1830673.story?coll=bal-local-howard

    It seems that Neil Gaffney, the husband of GOP Delegate candidate Loretta Gaffney was the first to lose his job under the new administration (along with his boss, Leonard Vaughn). While Larry Carson mention politics as being a possible motive, he conveniently left out the detail of Neil’s relationship to my running mate, Loretta.

    It is understandable that Mr. Ulman would want to bring in his own people, but I find it fishy that the first to go were two Republicans., who served under both Republican Mr. Ecker, and Democrat, Mr. Robey.

  2. Hayduke said

    David: Ha! My wife said I should go for it, too, but I think she was more interested in the extra paychecks.

    MBT: I’m sure Mr. Gaffney and Mr. Vaughan are great people, but the truth of the matter is that these guys have been running the housing department for over a decade and what do we have: a task force report saying the shortage of affordable housing in this county is somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.

    If we really want to make headway on the affordable housing issue, we’re going to need new ideas and energy. The same old, same old hasn’t and won’t cut it.

    You can spin this as partisanship if you want, but to anyone who follows the affordable housing issue closely, it’s clearly about performance.

  3. MBT said

    Heyduke – I am just stating that the first people to go are Republicans. You would have to live under a rock not to see this. Short of paying for mortgages for everyone, i’m not sure what the county can do. Neil, for one, has several awards that I am aware of, for his work on low-cost housing, in the midst of a housing boom.

    As for the appeals board – it isn’t full itme is it? You should go for it. We need people who are truly interested, and you have a lot of sweat equity involved already, Heyduke!

  4. numbersgirl said


    Those familiar with the efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing in wealthy areas know that there is plenty more that can and should be done.

    To write it off as “paying mortgages for everyone” is to not understand the concept of affordable housing.

  5. MBT said

    Numbersgirl – Nobody fuly understands the concept of affordable housing. If you do, please fill us in, and be sure to include the concept of the housing market values.

  6. numbersgirl said

    MBT, Why don’t you read a little about low-income housing tax credits or inclusionary zoning?

    It is important is for our elected officials and their appointees in the housing department to understand the importance of affordable housing to the overall fabric of the community. Spann and Carbo have good backgrounds. I’m excited to see what the future holds.

  7. Freemarket said

    First Ulman is accused of playing politics by firing two republicans and next there will be endless complaints about his resume. Numbers, you and Hayduke are doing a disservice to this blog by attempting to reduce the partisan spin. Please stop messing up the rotation. Puff, puff, give!

  8. MBT said

    And I suppose none of you had any problems with the Ehrlich administration firing folks who happen to be Democrats?

    I point ou that the first to go were two Republicans, and all of a sudden it is partisan spin? Perhaps the firings themsleves were partisan spin?

    Vaughn and Gaffney have good backgrounds too.

  9. Hayduke said

    MBT: Except you didn’t just point out that two Republicans were the first to go. You said “Ulman has started playing politics, I see, despite his comments to the contrary:” and “I find it fishy that the first to go were two Republicans., who served under both Republican Mr. Ecker, and Democrat, Mr. Robey.”

    Furthermore, you implied that since Gaffney’s wife was a running mate of yours, his firing was somehow related or at least was relevant to Carson’s story. It’s not.

    If Merdon had been elected, I would have had no problem with him filling all the cabinet positions with Republicans. These are appointed, serve-at-the-discretion-of-elected-officials positions. Now, this is not to say I think executives should hire exclusively from within their own party, but let’s see how the rest of the appointments shake out before we pass judgement.

    Again, I have nothing bad to say about either Vaughan or Gaffney, but I do think it’s time for a change.

  10. MBT,

    You are among the fairest and calmest people I know. I can tell that this really has you fired up.

    You know, Ken has a personal driver taking him around the County now (Robey and Ecker rarely used a driver). I hope the driver is a democrat (for his sake). More on that topic later.

    If a pattern develops we can hold a $1M hearing on the matter and conclude with a report around October 2010.


  11. Hayduke said

    MBT, Don’t take what I wrote as piling on. Obviously, the Gaffneys are friends of yours and it’s certainly never fun to see your friend lose a job. I just don’t think “playing politics” is a fair criticism of Ulman’s appointment decisions.

    As for you, Mr. Keelan, you’ve got some sources, I’d say.

  12. MBT said

    David – not really fired up – you haven’t seen me fired up – ask my kids! 🙂

    However, given the amount of criticism heaped upon Ehrlich and as you alluded to, the sham hearings, etc. on the subject, I find it kind of ironic that given the complexity of the county system, that the first to go are 2 Republicans.

    Ulman is a politician – he’s a big boy – if he didn’t know these firing could be construed as politics, then he needs to get with the program.

    If the shoe were on the other foot and Chris Merdon had come in and fired the first two Democrats, everyone would have been screaming about partisan politics. Of course, ANYBODY Chris fired, with the exception of Vaughn and Gaffney would have been Democrats, as he would have been taking over after a Democratic administration (akin to Ehrlich).

    It will be interesting to see how many Republicans that O’Malley keeps on board, and what will be said in the press when Republicans are fired.

    Also – again, I reiterate – I expect a new administration to come on board with their own people – including these positions. I just find it ironic that the first two positions to go were Republicans.

    As for the driver – interesting – I wonder if it were recommended by a third party to have a driver? What do surrounding counties do? WHo is the driver, BTW? A county police officer?

  13. Hayduke said

    Of course, ANYBODY Chris fired, with the exception of Vaughn and Gaffney would have been Democrats, as he would have been taking over after a Democratic administration (akin to Ehrlich).

    Is that really true? Here’s what in the Sun story you linked to:

    Ulman’s predecessor, James N. Robey, a former county police chief who just completed two terms in the top job, didn’t fire any appointed department heads when he took office in 1998.

    How many of the current department heads have been around since the days of Ecker? I know it’s more than just Vaughan, but I don’t know how many nor do I know who was appointed by Ecker.

  14. anonymous said

    the police chief is a republican btw

  15. “The Police Chief is a republican btw”

    Alright! Maybe he will come to our next 1st Friday.

  16. MBT said

    Heyduke – that is interesting about Robey. I know that he and Ecker were fairly similar in their overall approach, so this would not surprise me at all. And yes, there probably are some Republicans still floating around. Chief McMahon is a good example (yes – he would be welcome at the next First Friday!) I do hope this is a good sign for Ulamn not completely cleaning house on a partisan basis.

    The point I was making is that taking over after someone of the oppositie party, normally means more of a changeover than if the transition is within the same party, although changes occur there as well. Although Robey did not fire anyone, I would guess that most of his new appointments would have leaned Democrat – but I don’t have the figures there either – so if anyone has those figures, that would be helpful.

    Again, my original post was an observation – and I know it would elicit a lot of responses – David K – you owe me for increasing your post traffic! 🙂

  17. Outsider said

    I wish I were a high school buddy of Ulman, so I could get a job in his administration! Who does a 32-year old turn to for advice? Why a 33-year old of course! He must have had a good resume!

    I don’t believe that Ulman would use a driver. That would be a waste of money and the poor use of a police officer, who could be actually fighting crime.

  18. tomberkhouse said


    I’m flattered that you’d mention me as a possible Board candidate. But, I’m sure County residency is a pre-requisite, so that leaves me out. And, I’m too independent minded and would accept any arm twisting from above, which happens on these boards quite often.

    Although he may not believe it coming from me, Hayduke could be a good possibility – he certainly has very good knowledge of certain issues (ie: affordable housing), although I dare say I would not necessarily agree with some of his recommendations on how to fix that problem. Don’t think that I’m not going to go easy on him and his postings though. Frankly, these positions DO require people to have zoning knowledge and even somewhat extensive legal/analytical experience. It’s not enough just to be a community activist in my opinion.

  19. Hayduke said

    Actually, the two didn’t know each other in high school, and if you read the story you’d realize Spann is very well qualified.

    And what does age have to do with anything? Not that it really matters, but Ehrlich appointed a 34 year old to be an assistant secretary for the state’s housing department.

    But, please, continue to judge people based on erroneous assumptions…

  20. Freemarket said

    Outsider- are you the same person who constantly makes negative comments on this blog about Ken Ulman? Is there ANYTHING at all that Ulman could do during his term as CE to win your vote next election?

  21. bsflag2007 said

    I’m not sure I’d hold “using a driver” against Ulman — unless he’s in a limo opening champagne bottles in the back at noon on a weekday.
    In fact – I’d prefer the person driving any car have both hands on the wheel and not have a cell phone device sticking out of his ear.
    It just seems reasonable to me that the new CE would have to make a lot of “site visits” – especially in the beginning – which would involve doing a lot of driving around.

    I would also imagine that he doesn’t travel “alone” much — and whatever helper/aid he has with him ought to do the driving — since he probably has lots of time during those rides when he could be returning calls or occupying his mind with the county’s business.

    Just seems like reasonable time management.

    On the other hand — surely a fully trained, fully expensed police officer is not doing this driving….. that would NOT be a good use of resources.

    Can anyone say “for sure” who is helping KU with his driving?

    Cindy V.

  22. Outsider said

    Sorry to disappoint you, but there must be others who see through Ulman as well.

    Interesting question – what could make me vote for Ulman?

    * If he comes clean about his past and releases his job descriptions. This guy has had about 10 jobs in the last 10 years. Even if the job titles are legitimate (and questions still exist), how much experience could one person gain in a summer job? His longest job before County Council was with his dad’s firm, right? A chronological resume on this guy would be lacking.

    * He stops distorting the record of his opponents, especially not with anonymous websites and mailers. It is unbecoming of a leader.

    * He actually listens to people and levels with them when he talks, rather than pandering and promising the world. A little more “straight talk” rather than sound bites and vague platitudes. I admit the guy is charismatic, but we should ask for more.

    In my view, Ulman lacks the maturity and experience to be CE. I am not alone. That may change over the next 4 years. Hopefully, people will hold his feet to the fire.

    Oh and Ehrlich picking a 34-year old for an assistant post is acceptable, as Ehrlich has many years of experience to compensate. Ulman has few years and should turn to someone more qualified to provide technical expertise, rather than a friend of a high school buddy.

    I would have voted for Guzzone, but he chose not to run. Pity.

  23. To Outsider said

    Ulman’s resume is what it is — I only count 8 positions. But I think he may actually believe that he has an unprecedented level of experience. That would not make him a liar who should “come clean” but it does appear a tad delusional. Regardless he brings nothing to the table in my view.

    I agree re: Guzzone. I also think that the County would have been just as well off, if not better off, had Mary Kay Sigaty beaten Ulman four years ago. Robey’s endorsement won him that election. Based on my knowledge of MKS, I think Ulman got that endorsement based on his family ties rather than merit.

    Alas we cannot live in the past. Thankfully the County has plenty of skilled employees that can keep on course regardless of the County Executive. Let’s hope for the best…

  24. Judy Peck said

    I may not be as well informed as some on this thread, however, I agree that Ulman is out of his depth with the CE job. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like any Republican can win in this state any time soon. Mr. Spann being a member of Mayor O’Malley’s team in Baltimore speaks volumes to me about the nature of political payoffs for services rendered in the campaign.

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