Owens' move for more oversight of land use worries developers

Additional review could add day's delay to Anne Arundel projects

January 12, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Developers in Anne Arundel County are worried that County Executive Janet S. Owens' recent demand for more oversight of subdivision approvals might discourage construction projects by adding bureaucracy and delays.

Environmentalists praise the Democrat for trying to control suburban sprawl and prevent favors to well-connected developers.

A spokesman for Owens said yesterday that her decision to review all applications for major subdivisions and waivers of the county's growth-control laws will add a day to the evaluation of projects and will not stop growth.

"This review is simply the new administration's desire to make sure that the citizens are being properly served by the process," said Owens' spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter. "She wants to make sure she knows all the ins and outs of the subdivision review process."

The county executive's Dec. 23 decision to scrutinize decisions of the county's land-use office came in response to an article in The Sun revealing that a team of county planners led by planning administrator Mark Wedemeyer was recommending waivers for a company owned by Wedemeyer's father-in-law, Raymond Streib.

To prevent an appearance of a conflict of interest, the land-use office has a different team of planners reviewing projects engineered by Streib's company, Development Facilitators Inc.

County planning administrator Stephen V. Callahan is coordinating the review of subdivisions submitted by Streib, Carpenter said. Callahan has no connection to Streib, Carpenter said.

The change announced yesterday was more substantial than an earlier action by the land-use office, which at first had one of Wedemeyer's employees coordinating the review of his father-in-law's projects.

Susan Davies, co-director of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Maryland, said she understands why a new county executive would want to step into the review process for subdivisions and waivers.

But Davies said she worries that running every proposal across the desk of the busy county executive could cause substantial delays.

"I don't want to overreact to the current situation," Davies said. "But in general, we get concerned whenever there is a potential for more delays because delays in the process mean more costs for the developer. One day's delay can cost $2,000."

Gary Beach, president of McCrone Inc., a development engineering company in Annapolis, said an additional layer of review could drive developers into other counties.

Such a loss would be costly for the county, Beach said, because the county uses the revenue from taxes paid by developers to finance improvements in education and other services.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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