In 2011, I was appointed to the Board of Appeals for Howard County. The Board of Appeals has two roles in Howard County. In the first role, cases for conditional uses, sometimes called special use permits, are heard by the Board of Appeals Hearing Examiner. Parties may appeal a decision of the Hearing Examiner and the case will then be heard by the Board of Appeals. When the case is heard by the Board of Appeals, the testimony and evidence are presented again, by all sides (there may be more than two), and the Board of Appeals makes a decision. A similar process is followed for variances.
In the second role, the Board of Appeals will hear cases as an appellate body. In these cases, a decision of some county agency is brought to the Board of Appeals for review. There are numerous routes laid out in the Howard County Code for an appeal to be brought to the Board, and some are heard by the Hearing Examiner before the Board. In the last five years, the overwhelming majority of these were land-use cases originating from a decision of the Department of Planning and Zoning, such as code enforcement decisions, and cases from the Howard County Planning Board, which is authorized to approve development plans based on the Zoning Regulations. A handful of appeals cases came from the Animal Matters Hearing Board.
For more information on the Board of Appeals, the Howard County Council maintains a microsite on the Board of Appeals and related topics.
In January of 2016, the County Council reappointed me to the Board.
Every eight years, the Howard County Charter requires the County Council to appoint a Charter Review Commission within three months of the new County Council’s seating. The Charter Review Commission only has one technical responsibility and that is to return its report no later than May 1st of the following year. There are no requirements or guidelines for the report. So the Charter Review Commission takes its objective from its name and we reviewed.
I was appointed to the 2019 Charter Review Commission along with fourteen others from around the county. We reviewed the Charter section by section with the Office of Law, representatives from different departments, and the Councilmembers themselves. Howard County has all of the agendas, minutes, and recordings of our meetings available on its website. We produced three major documents.
The Public Engagement in Land Use Planning Task Force (PELU) was a short-term task force organized by the Howard County Council in early 2008. Members were designated into two groups, those representing residents and those representing businesses. The group had two chairs, one from each group and I was the second co-chair for the resident representatives. The first co-chair was Howard Weinstein. Bill Erskine was the co-chair representing businesses.
Bill set up a blog that we used to communicate. It probably was not the most effective way to do it, but it was easier than setting up a wiki or some other things. Members could use it very effectively, by email if nothing else. It is still posted, though obviously has not been changed since 2008.
Image by Jim Kuhn via Wikimedia Commons. The Thomas Viaduct was built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the 1830s to provide rail access to Howard County, Maryland.