Recently, County Executive Johnny Olszewski introduced a bill to change the county’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, which is also known as the “CZMP.” The CZMP is perhaps the most important aspect of the county’s land use and zoning process, because it is how the county makes changes – in a sweeping and comprehensive way – to its zoning designations for the entire county. It is also the way in which the vision set forth in the county’s master plan is put into practice and becomes controlling. The CZMP is such a big undertaking that it only comes around once every four years.
With this background, the Administration’s bill (Bill 84-22) would make two changes that are intended to increase public input and give the county’s Planning Board the benefit of such input before approving (or not) changes during the CZMP.
To be more specific, the bill would require the Planning Department to prepare an “information report” to provide a certain amount of information on the zoning change being requested, and this report would be publicly available upon request. It used to be the case that the Planning Department would only prepare a preliminary report that was relatively barebones and did not contain any staff data or analysis. And, importantly, this preliminary report was not made public.
The specifics of what should be included in the information report are still being hammered out, as is the way in which this report would be made public. We The People strongly believes that this report must contain staff data and analysis, and should be posted online, not just handed over in paper copy. In this way, the information report would live up to the reason for its being – to allow for meaningful public input prior to the Planning Board’s decisionmaking.
The second change proposed by the bill would be to require the Planning Department to wait to make recommendations to the Planning Board until after the information report is released and the Planning Board holds public hearings. This way, the Planning Department will actually know what the community thinks about a rezoning before it makes a recommendation. This makes good sense and is good government in action.
You can find more about the bill here. The County Council will discuss this bill at its work session on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 at 4 p.m. Please consider supporting it, whether by appearing at the work session or submitting an email in advance.
If you do, please be sure to note that, in order to be actionable, the information report really should be meaty and should be made available online (ideally without someone needing to request it first). Items to be covered by the report should be the existing land use and zoning, the proposed land use and zoning, adequate public facilities, environmental conditions, historical attributes and so on.