Planning nominee offers 'balance'

April 05, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

When Cathy L. Hartman heard that the "open space" she could see from her deck was about to become a home for Columbia Association dump trucks, she didn't raise her voice in protest.

But she did help organize her Columbia Hills neighborhood to defeat the garage, and her back yard still overlooks undisturbed land between Edgar Road and U.S. 29.

In about a month, the Rouse Co. and other developers may find themselves asking her approval for plans countywide.

On Wednesday, her nomination to the county Planning Board by County Executive Charles I. Ecker will be introduced to the County Council.

"I was really surprised when they called me, but I was delighted, honored that they would ask me," Ms. Hartman said.

She was recommended to replace resigning Chairwoman Kay Partridge, of Glenwood, by County Councilman Darrel Drown, a Republican who represents the Ellicott City district that includes Columbia Hills.

If confirmed by the council, Ms. Hartman would complete Ms. Partridge's five-year term, which ends May 1, 1994.

"Balance. I think that's the best way to describe Cathy," Mr. Drown said.

Mr. Drown dealt with Ms. Hartman on the garage issue and said he was impressed with her style.

"What I liked about her was that she didn't come screaming and yelling at us; she was very reasonable and rational."

In fact, Ms. Hartman, who has no party affiliation, will bring very little baggage with her when she appears for her confirmation hearing April 19 at 8 p.m. in the George Howard county office building.

The 37-year-old Pikesville native has spent most of her six years in Columbia Hills rearing her three children, Nicholas, 10, Alexis, 8, and Eliott, 5, with her husband Michael, a civil engineer.

It wasn't until the fall of 1991, when the community learned of the Columbia Association's plans for a public works garage, that she became involved in planning matters.

Since then, as president of the Columbia Hills-Meadowbrook Farms Community Association, she has had to deal with a number of other planning issues.

"There's usually something going on in this community because we're surrounded by everything," Ms. Hartman said in an interview last week.

If it's not the Columbia Association to the south, it's the State Highway Administration with its Route 100 project to the north, through which the community will soon get a northern access road.

On the southeast, the neighborhood association was able to get county planners' assurances last fall that traffic from proposed apartments wouldn't wind through their neighborhood.

Through it all, Ms. Hartman has maintained her equanimity and earned the respect of county officials.

"I think she is a very practical person. She does not have any biases, any preconceived notions about planning and zoning," Mr. Ecker said.

The only potential impediment to her confirmation by the County Council might be that she also has very little experience in dTC planning and zoning.

But that is better than what is sometimes the alternative, Mr. Ecker said.

"I think if a person is open-minded and has no ax to grind, that's a lot better than someone coming in with a grievance or bias," he said.

Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat who represents the southeastern part of the county, said she knew nothing about Ms. Hartman and would keep an open mind.

"Certainly, an ongoing interest in land use is a positive in someone's resume," Ms. Pendergrass said. "I understand, however, that these are somewhat difficult positions to fill, because of the time involved, so I understand the position the executive is in."

Ms. Partridge, an attorney, said she resigned because the board work took too much of her time. Mr. Ecker's first appointee, Nelson Fenwick, stepped down in August for much the same reason after 18 months on the board.

"It is difficult to find people that can give up a couple of days a month. These are volunteer jobs," Mr. Ecker said, adding that he believes Ms. Hartman is "a very qualified person and is able to devote some time to this."

To help compensate for lost work time, Mr. Ecker has restored the $35 stipend paid to board members for each daytime meeting.

Ms. Hartman, who has studied at Towson State University and Essex and Howard community colleges, said she hopes to start working part-time as a home-based travel agent this fall.

She said she did not expect working on the board to interfere with that.

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