Olszewski must lead on planning and zoning reforms | READER COMMENTARY

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Baltimore County Executive John "Johnny O" Olszewski Jr. announces his endorsement of Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks for a U.S. Senate seat set to open in 2024 after the retirement of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. File. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

I hope that The Baltimore Sun’s editorial on the “broken” processes by which Baltimore County regulates the uses and development of land is the impetus for much-needed and long-delayed reform. (“How Baltimore County can fix its broken zoning process,” May 15). County officials will need all the encouragement they can get to overcome the resistance from builders, developers and their lawyers who have a vested interest in the status quo.

The editorial described the dysfunctional manner in which the county does periodic comprehensive rezoning and approves planned unit developments or PUDs. Those processes are dysfunctional by design, customized to serve the one-hand-washes-the-other relationship between the special interests and county officials. They are crafted to maximize political opportunism and fundraising by individual members of the county council.


It is important to recognize that it is County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski, Jr. who must take charge of reform. As in other charter counties, he controls the resources — the planners, lawyers and other professionals in county government — required to put together the necessary legislation.

To date, Olszewski has shown no genuine interest in reform. For example, the county’s failure to effectively regulate development to avoid school overcrowding has a direct impact on educational performance. Nevertheless, the report of a task force recommending changes to the law has gathered dust since 2020.


Reform need not await Master Plan 2030 and any claim to the contrary is the sound of cans being kicked down the road. There are workable and reasonable processes that other counties use to do comprehensive rezoning, approve PUDs and regulate the pace of development so that it does not overwhelm public facilities that Olszewski’s staff can use as models.

No more excuses, just get it done.

— David Plymyer, Catonsville

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