Change needed atop Planning and ZoningI am writing to...


May 09, 1999

Change needed atop Planning and Zoning

I am writing to comment on the May 3 article by Larry Carson, "Robey mulls staff change." I am encouraged that Howard County Executive James N. Robey has not yet made a decision to retain Joseph W. Rutter Jr. as county planning director.

While pressure to remove him may have subsided, as was suggested by Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, it is only because concerned citizens desparingly concluded that the decision had been made.

Our feelings about the matter have not subsided. In fact, at a recent meeting of a citizen land use committee, there was a spirited discussion over the mishandling by the Rutter's Department of Planning and Zoning of the Toll Brothers development at Sanner and Pindell School roads. Part of that discussion was about how we should proceed to convince Mr. Robey that Mr. Rutter is not perceived as being even-handed when dealing with developer vs. citizen interests.

It is unfortunate that retention of Mr. Rutter is likely to color all of Mr. Robey's future actions on development and land use.

Representatives from the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association met with Mr. Robey about the Maple Lawn Farm mixed-use development in January. We were disappointed that he chose to have Mr. Rutter present. Indicating that he was well aware of community concerns, he made a joke about rebuking the controversial Mr. Rutter periodically to make him behave. We knew that at a previous meeting with Mr. Robey on mixed-use development, criticism of Mr. Rutter was voiced. Several of us interpreted his presence at our meeting as a ploy to stifle further criticism of him. In retrospect, we were too polite at the time.

Mr. Robey also sent a terse and essentially unsympathetic reply to a solicited letter from one of our group requesting a new staff report on Maple Lawn Farms PDP. Instead of taking a fresh look at mixed-use development in southern Howard, Mr. Robey now gives the impression that development attitudes in his administration will not change.

Mr. Rutter had his say in Charles I. Ecker's administration, whose growth policies were repudiated in the last election.

It seems obvious that to restore voter faith in the present administration, Mr. Robey must obtain fresh advice by appointing a new head of Planning and Zoning.

Harry Brodie, Fulton

The writer is president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association.

Relieve counselors of mundane chores

Your editorial on the counselor gap tells only part of the story, at least as far as Howard County is concerned. Counselors spend much of their time on items not related to the mental health needs of students.

Among these are hall and cafeteria duty, doing college applications, testing programs -- the list goes on.

Perhaps the most cost-effective means of providing more help for students would be to relieve the counselors of some of these duties.

Ralph W. Geuder, Ellicott City

Smothering debate on adequate facilities

I was disappointed last Monday when Howard County Council members Mary C. Lorsung and C. Vernon Gray voted not to allow Christopher J. Merdon's legisla tion to be added to the agenda. This legislation would have allowed the early adoption of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for the northeast.

I believe Mr. Merdon wrote the legislation at the request of northeast citizens as the northeast is in a critical situation with a shortage of elementary school seats.

The latest numbers from the Department of Education reflect 122 percent overcapacity for the northeast in 2002. The Adequate Public Facilities law is supposed to allow only 115 percent regional overcapacity.

Mr. Merdon tried to introduce legislation to adopt the new open/closed chart one month early to prevent a last-minute rush of new subdivision approvals, which are surely to occur.

Both Mr. Gray, whose Waterloo constituents are severely affected by the northeast overcrowding, and Ms. Lorsung voted to not amend the agenda to allow the legislation to be heard.

It is one thing to vote against legislation after due process and all sides are heard, but to vote against allowing a legitimate issue to be discussed is unfortunate for citizens of this county.

Are the developers saying redistrict our kids? How about if all of the children from the new developments are bused to a single school with ample capacity? How many houses do you think the developers would sell then?

The northeast needs the Adequate Public Facilities Review Committee to tighten the ordinance so that it actually cuts off building when a region hits 115 percent of school capacity. I urge the committee to carefully review this issue and council members Gray and Lorsung, for the sake of county children, to more carefully review these issues the next time.

Jerry Bialecki, Ellicott City

Concerns about well water

I would like to comment on the May 2 article in The Sun for Howard, "Court gives deadline in zoning case."

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