LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- During a recent campaign forum, the seven candidates for Anne Arundel County executive criticized the county's approval process for development, with most calling for an overhaul of the Department of Planning and Zoning to cut red tape and the time necessary to obtain permits.
Last year, the county revised land-use laws to establish a more usable set of rules without the inconsistencies that hampered previous regulations and led to delays in the review process.
But development community representatives say that has had little practical effect because the department lacks planners to review the thousands of proposals they receive each year, from residential subdivisions to simple house additions and decks. It is typical for a developer to wait two to three years to receive all regulatory approvals to build a subdivision. Proposed developments that are held up because of strained public facilities, such as crowded schools, are not reviewed until the infrastructure is improved or the six-year deadline for the county to make those upgrades expires, they said.
That means such a project could take a decade to get off the ground, they said. Developers argue that delays result in costs that are passed along to homebuyers and other consumers.
Do you agree that the county's approval and permit process for development should be overhauled?
Pandering to developers
It was enlightening to observe how all the candidates for county executive fell all over each other to pander to the developers at the forum, in the hope of attracting campaign contributions. The process for approving permits does not need overhaul, except to slow down the pace of development before the whole county is dug up or paved over. If the current county master plan is fully implemented, only a third of our present forest cover will remain, resulting in more runoff and pollution of our waterways. I will vote for the candidate who promises to slow the pace of development, enforce our environmental laws and stop giving variances to lawbreakers.
County agency needs more staff
The county recently passed a new code that was an improvement over the existing 30-year-old code. It's been about six months and the county and public are finding what works and what does not work. The Anne Arundel County Alliance for Fair Land Use will again be involved in the necessary revisions and adjustments to this new code. Everyone worked very had to come up with this first revision.
The challenge we have with the county's approval and permit system is that they need more people to handle the workload. The current staff are doing the best they can and even working overtime.
Planning and Zoning, Inspections and Permits, and Public Works are the financial engine of our county. We are enjoying record revenues thanks to the development community and the efforts of the county to process approvals and permits. Does it not make sense to put additional revenues into those people who are generating the most revenues for our county? The more efficiently permits and approvals are processed, the faster those dollars flow into our economy.
More importantly, the ripple effect of these permits leads to employment in other industries such as suppliers of the materials, carpenters, bricklayers, Realtors, lawyers and a host of other related professions.
Most important for the public, these revenues pay for our school system and services that affect our quality of life. Let's give the county the manpower to do the job.
Anne Arundel County Alliance for Fair Land Use