To cut costs, the Baltimore County Department of Planning and Zoning will stop mailing copies of its agenda to the public. But some community leaders are complaining that they are being cut off from the flow of information.
Robert H. Bendler Jr., deputy director of the planning department, said the move will save $2,228 annually.
The department, which has mailed agendas for 10 years, last week notified 400 community organizations, businesses and individuals that it was stopping the mailings in this tight budget year.
Several community leaders, however, said they were concerned that this "information blackout" would set a dangerous precedent. The agendas list the topics the planning board and its committees expect to discuss and vote on, including waivers from development regulations and community plans.
Bendler said an agenda would be posted in 16 branch libraries around the county. In addition, anyone can have the agenda read aloud over the telephone by calling the department, he said.
The department's district planners stay in constant contact with community leaders, he added.
Notices of public hearings held by the planning board will still be published in The Evening Sun, The Sun and the Jeffersonian newspapers, Bendler said.
"In these difficult financial times, we thought we could cut out what has been basically a courtesy without damaging the flow of information to the public," he added.
But some community leaders disagreed.
"Community activists' lives are hectic enough without having to run over to the library to find out what is on the agenda," said Mary Basso, president of the Alliance of Baltimore County Community Councils, which represents 15 councils and several hundred community organizations and homeowners' associations.
Basso said it was a step by the administration of County Executive Roger B. Hayden to shut out community organizations.
"Absolutely not the case," Bendler said. "This is being done purely from a budgetary standpoint."
Bendler said the department has also cut nearly all travel and conference expenses, eliminated many service contracts on equipment and stopped giving out free reproductions of maps and publications, all to save money.