Community Input: Good Idea Or Boondoggle?I would like to...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 14, 1993

Community Input: Good Idea Or Boondoggle?

I would like to comment on the latest political grandstanding by the Theresa Pierno anti-growth coalition. This small group of people is attempting to stifle the economic health of Harford County with Council Bill 93-75.

I say "grandstanding," due to the fact that this legislation's sole purpose is to ensure that the public may have a forum to comment on proposed developments. The Department of Planning and Zoning already has in place a vehicle for this. A requirement of the review process is the Development Advisory Committee meeting. This meeting is advertised in the paper and public comment is solicited at the meeting. Why add another layer of government to duplicate a process already in place?

This legislation will cost everyone involved. Ms. Pierno says that the length of time for the review process will not increase. Evidently, she has talked to no one in Baltimore County, where similar legislation is in place. This process places unreal demands on the Department of Planning and Zoning. The county will have to hire many more planners to handle the additional workload. Overtime costs for those individuals to attend all the meetings will be astronomical.

This legislation is very similar to the tree bill in that it is being acted on with very little forethought. The tree bill had to be heavily amended to cover its many faults.

This legislation will cast a pall on our ability to attract outside business. Anti-growth legislation is not looked at favorably by business.

This legislation will change the face of Harford County forever. I would urge the council members to keep the interest in all Harford countians in mind when deciding their vote on this issue. Some of us out here make our living in Harford County.

Erich Schmitt

Street

Bill 93-75, Community Input Legislation, was introduced in the Harford County Council on Oct. 19. Sponsored by Councilwomen Susan Heselton and Theresa Pierno, this bill will require a community input meeting as part of the development review and approval process. This legislation addresses the concerns of many citizens in Harford County who feel that the current administrative process is inadequate to address their concerns. This is not a "stop growth" bill. It provides a forum where legitimate community concerns about a project must be addressed before the development approval process may proceed.

Bill Carroll, director of planning and zoning for Harford County, has expressed the administration's . . . concerns . . . that this adds additional layers to the development process, which will deter economic development. They feel that the new administrative process being developed through the administration-organized Strategic Community Planning Group (which was established more than 18 months ago), ostensibly to revamp the development review and approval system, will adequately address the issue of direct citizen participation. Recognizing the administration's and the business community's concerns, the authors redrafted the legislation, which allows a limited number of exemptions to the full process before it was introduced.

. . . The administration's doom-and-gloom picture for business in Baltimore County, where there is a somewhat similar program in place, has not held up. Issues have been raised and dealt with early on in the development process. The business community feels that they and their potential opponents have saved valuable time and money that would have been spent in costly legal maneuvers later on in the process.

Councilwoman Pierno joined the Strategic Community Planning Group when it was first conceived. However, after more than a year, her frustration over the lack of progress over the community planning issue led her to follow the legislative recourse with Councilwoman Heselton. Other citizen representatives on the group, myself included, also were feeling little progress was being made.

The Rehrmann administration immediately opposed the bill. Within a space of four months, and working almost from scratch, the bill has come to fruition. Time and again, the authors have asked for input from the administration and the business community, and have been shut out. The issue of community involvement in the development process transcends personal or political differences or agendas. It does not matter who gets the credit for the legislation either. I find it very interesting that someone who campaigned on a platform of more community involvement would adopt such a narrow attitude. . . .

If you are a resident in Harford County, you have a stake in Bill 93-75. Contact your council members and let them know your concern. They can be reached by calling 638-3343, or by writing to: Harford County Council, 20 W. Courtland St., Bel Air, MD, 21014.

Come to the public hearing at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16th at the council chambers to show your support for Bill 93-75.

Bruce Wells

Abingdon

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