Longtime city employee is new chief of zoning

Tanner has plan to clear agency's backlog of cases

September 01, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

With developers and property owners facing months of delays in getting their zoning cases heard in Baltimore, Mayor Martin O'Malley has hired a new administrator who is determined to speed up the work of the city's powerful zoning board.

David C. Tanner, a 30-year city employee, became executive director of the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals last week. Previously the city's zoning administrator and general superintendent of housing inspection services, Tanner applied for the job with a plan for clearing a backlog in zoning cases that forces developers and property owners to wait up to six months to begin projects or renovations.

"An appeal filed today would not get scheduled until sometime in January of next year, and that just is too long when you're dealing with new development, and financial arrangements are pending on them getting their proper permits in place," Tanner said. "So the mayor had been for the last year or so getting calls from the development side looking for ways to try to expedite that process."

Tanner has several ideas for speeding up the work of the zoning board, which is charged with deciding the fates of hundreds of development projects and renovations, major and minor, throughout the city. He plans to schedule hearings as applications are filed, rather than making applicants wait weeks for a date, and he plans to create a computerized database of all pending appeals.

One of Tanner's greatest powers might be in deciding when, and how quickly, cases will be heard. A week into the job, he is moving up hearings in a number of cases, including significant development projects.

"For economic development, time is money," said Laurie B. Schwartz, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development. "And when developers are ready to move forward on a project and they have to just stop and wait for six months ... not knowing what the outcome might be, that can stop development altogether."

Tanner, 54, is a Baltimore native who has worked for the city since starting as a housing inspector in 1971. He stayed with the Department of Housing and Community Development, becoming a zoning enforcement officer and, in 1988, zoning administrator and general superintendent of housing inspection services.

"I've got a lot of experience at the other end of the [zoning] appeal process," Tanner said. "The zoning administration office is the first step in the permit process for any permit."

City officials say that when the executive director of the zoning board, Frank W. Legambi, retired this year, many in the public and private sector recommended Tanner to succeed him.

Tanner's hiring was welcome news to some, such as local attorney Stanley S. Fine, who represents clients before the zoning board.

This week, Tanner expedited a hearing for one of Fine's clients, a developer who wants to transform an office building at 222 E. Saratoga St. into 77 loft apartments. The $8.3 million project, which had been scheduled for a hearing in January, will be heard in October, in time for a planned sale of the property by the end of that month.

"That's a perfect example of a situation that, assuming we're approved, that this expedited process really assists," Fine said. "It all gets streamlined in terms of time, and it adds housing in downtown Baltimore."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.