Towson notices

September 22, 2005

A SIDE FROM the tasseled-loafer crowd, most people are too busy to devote much time to the minutiae of legal advertisements. It's one of the reasons that a relatively minor planning decision - say, a residential setback - is usually decided without much fanfare. Government officials are generally satisfied with this arrangement. It spares them the added complication and fuss of hearing from a lot of concerned citizens who might or might not grasp the issues involved. This isn't necessarily an effort to be secretive; more often it's a matter of benign bureaucratic indifference.

Nonetheless, it's heartening that the Baltimore County Council sees a need to shed a bit more light on the permitting process. Legislation introduced this month would require the county to post on a Web site applications for certain variances, waivers or limited exemptions. Citizens could check the site by councilmanic district, address or name of applicant and learn the status of these proposals from start to finish. This is where government information should be headed - more open, timely and understandable.

David A. C. Carroll, the county's director of environmental protection and resource planning, worries that his staff will be inundated with complaints about minor and technical matters. It's disappointing to hear Mr. Carroll has such a low opinion of his county's residents. The truth is, people deserve to know about these decisions. Assuming the council adopts this bill, it will be up to the appropriate officials, Mr. Carroll included, to make sure the information is clear, comprehensive and accurate so people won't misunderstand.

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