Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

March 20, 2005

Zoning process should be more open

The League of Women Voters of Howard County believes that democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen's right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions and making public records accessible.

We therefore request the County Council's consideration, examination and recommendations regarding public notification and participation in the County Comprehensive Zoning process.

This was the first time that comprehensive zoning was handled as a legislative bill. It was also the first time that the County Council deferred certain land use decisions to another time and another County Council bill.

There needs to be consistency in the legislative consideration of land use and zoning regulation changes. Advertisement needs to include enough information to identify the specific location and immediate surrounding area of property under consideration. The list of properties considered for change must receive the same public notification and Planning Board review.

During both the comprehensive (2003-2004) and Comp-lite (2004-2005) processes, citizens raised concerns about how a property was placed in the Council bills. The administration proposed changes, owners requested changes and Council members initiated proposed changes.

Adjacent neighbors were sometimes informed by a certified letter from the property owner, sometimes informed by a letter from their Council person and sometimes only informed if they saw a newspaper article or read the legal advertisement. No properties were posted.

The Planning Board's considerations of proposed changes were held on different dates and times. The Planning Board was sometimes hearing many changes and at other times only hearing one proposed change. The public questioned the criteria used for Planning Board involvement or non-involvement. The Planning Board did not review the Council-initiated amendments pertaining to a specific property's zoning.

The County's Web site provided detailed information but assumed sophistication and understanding of the acronyms of zoning. It lacked analysis of the overall impact of combined changes.

It is unclear as to what the appeal/referendum process might be for a property or a regulation change. Can one appeal a specific property or regulation change from the whole?

The League knows that the County Council, Department of Planning and Zoning, the Planning Board and citizens have expressed the desire to improve the comprehensive zoning process.

We would like to be included in those discussions. We urge the County Council to start the discussion now while the numerous issues are fresh in your and the community's minds.

Betsy Grater

The writer is co-president, League of Women Voters of Howard County

Ulman raises ire of this resident

According to Howard County Council member Ken Ulman, the votes of Council member Chris Merdon on a number of issues, including protecting the rights of his constituents, was "posturing."

Was it "posturing" when Mr. Ulman voted to deny the location of a drug store in his district? Was it "posturing" when Mr. Ulman voted to deny increased density at Town Center in Columbia in his district? Is it "posturing" currently when he is supporting the purchase of Merriweather Pavilion in his district?

Is it "posturing" to vote against Mr. Merdon's amendments that represent the views of the Ellicott City and Elkridge residents because Mr. Merdon is running for County Executive against Mr. Ulman's pal, Council Member Guzzone. Is it "posturing" for Mr. Ulman to vote to deny the citizens the right to a public process in future development of certain properties because his pal, an attorney, represented the petitioner?

Mr. Ulman states that the "residents are smart enough" to recognize "posturing." Yes we are, Mr. Ulman. And we are a lot smarter than you think we are. We also recognize hypocrisy when we see it!

Angela Beltram

Ellicott City

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