Pittman promises changes to Anne Arundel development plan citizen advisory committee

Chase Cook
Contact Reporterccook@capgaznews.com

County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Wednesday planned changes to the General Development Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, but he did not provide any specifics on who may be asked to step down.

Pittman addressed the committee for about 10 to 15 minutes. Planned changes include less emphasis on developers and builders and increasing geographic diversity by adding members from lesser represented areas of the county.

He also revealed the county is working on updates regarding specific recommendations from the localized small area development plans. These plans recommend the type and scope of developments in specific areas.

The county will hold another 16 meetings throughout the area, Pittman said.

“We are not going to stop the process,” he said. “During those meetings, people will get updates and have another opportunity for comment.”

Current committee chairman Leo Wilson said he didn’t know Pittman would attend the meeting until about an hour before it started.

Wilson speculated Pittman’s changes would mean fewer developer committee members. He said the county executive did not provide specifics to him.

“He did not say what he was going to do,” Wilson said. “Certainly some people will be asked to step down and there will be changes. It is unlikely I will stay as chair.”

The committee was appointed by former County Executive Steve Schuh. It is tasked with providing feedback on the General Development Plan to the Office of Planning and Zoning.

The plan is a 20-year document guiding the county’s zoning and development needs and desires. A draft of the plan will go before the County Council near the end of 2019.

The Democratic county executive ran an aggressive anti-development campaign. It isn’t a surprise the General Development Plan — one of the most important planning and zoning documents — would be on Pittman’s list. He held more than a dozen forums throughout the county in areas represented by small area development plans. These plans provide a more focused look at specific sections of the county.

He has promised to bring a new emphasis on those plans.

“Small area plans are back,” Pittman said during his inauguration speech. “And through them you will have a loud and clear voice as we draft our 20-year General Development Plan.”

The current list of committee members is made up of local political and business leaders. Seven of the 17 members donated money to Schuh, with Wilson donating $4,000 and Harry Blumenthal, an Annapolis attorney, donating $8,900. Those donations were made over a multi-year period.

Pittman’s meeting with the committee marks one of his first major moves as county executive. Others include some cabinet hirings announced through his transition team.

He has not announced his choices for police and fire chief. Besides development and education, public safety officers were a core issue of Pittman’s campaign. He has promised to hire more public safety officers and make their pay more competitive with surrounding areas. Two of the major public safety unions endorsed Pittman, while others representing higher-ranking officers endorsed Schuh.

County Police Chief Timothy Altomare has clashed publicly with the police union after the union representative was placed at the Arundel Mills mall near the Live Casino and Hotel. The county police department traditionally has a sworn officer focused on union duties. The county police chief can assign that officer elsewhere when needed, though the union officer claimed he was being punished.

In a previous interview with The Capital, Pittman said he was aware of the union and chief’s relationship but he ultimately makes the decision.

He is still reviewing his options.

“There are two ways of doing it,” Pittman said. “One is to improve the relationship between the chief and the union. The other is to replace the chief. You can’t replace the union leadership. That’s their decision. I’m looking at both options.”

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