Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has hired a new director for the Department of Planning and Zoning.
Valdis Lazdins, who currently serves as chief of research and special projects for Montgomery County's planning department, will start in Howard on Monday, June 22. He's replacing current DPZ director Marsha McLaughlin, who has spent 27 years of her career in Howard County.
Since he took office in December, Kittleman has said he planned to replace McLaughlin, who will retire June 30. During his campaign for county executive, he criticized the Department of Planning and Zoning and implied decisions made by the department were not always fair.
At a town hall in Glenwood last August, he said Howard has "a situation where the leadership of the county has allowed the Department of Planning and Zoning to be controlled by a few people."
In a statement announcing Lazdins' hiring, Kittleman said the new director "shares my vision of a more accessible department and a transparent, inclusive process to help us make land use decisions.
"I am confident that Valdis is the right person for this job, particularly as we look ahead to some exciting new development and redevelopment projects," he said.
Lazdins has worked in the Montgomery County planning department, where he has focused on analyzing the county's land use related to demographic, economic and housing trends for the past three years. Before that, he was a principal planner for LSL Planning Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., and an assistant planning director for the city of Grand Rapids.
Other career highlights include designing ski areas, golf courses and master-planned communities, and developing zoning regulations for the Kodiak Island and Matanuska-Sustina Boroughs in Alaska, according to a county-provided biography.
Lazdins, who lived in Howard County from 1984 to 1996, also worked on planning the communities of Columbia and Reston.
"This is an exciting opportunity for me to be back in Howard County," Lazdins said in a statement. "Times have changed though, and Howard County is a much different place than when I left. It's in a different place on the development curve – a maturing place with a greater focus on redevelopment and revitalization."
This week's meetings
Thursday, June 18
• The congregation of Cooksville's Mt. Gregory United Methodist Church meets with the hearing examiner at 5:30 p.m. to request a conditional use for a meeting room with restrooms and ADA accessibility into the church's existing sanctuary. Afterward, at 6 p.m. Columbia's Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church asks the hearing examiner for a conditional use modification to allow for an outdoor tent pad and tent.
• The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. On the agenda are plans for 176 single-family homes at Maple Lawn South, off of Scaggsville Road, and a zoning regulations amendment for the Corridor Activity Center district that includes the possibility of further reducing commercial space requirements for development.
Monday, June 22
• A presubmission meeting to present plans for four single family homes on the Percival property off of Haviland Mill Road is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Glenwood Branch library.
• Another four single family dwellings are proposed for the Khan property near Cooksville; a presubmission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Glenwood Branch library.