Playing Politics with Land Use Planning
[Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of how an imperious majority of planning commission members foolishly twist facts to avoid fulfilling their responsibilities. The cast of characters include: Planning Commission Members: John McClurkin, chairman; Robert Lawrence, secretary; Catherine Forrence, Audrey Wolfe; Robert White Jr.; Richard Floyd, vice chairman; Assistant County Attorney Michael Chomel; County Planning Staff member Jim Gugel and Director Eric Soter.]
In our last exciting episode of the Land Planning Game Show, our Frederick County Planning Commission superstars Catherine Forrence and Robert “Bob” White placed high reverence on the sanctity of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan … something they take great pride in playing a part of its assemblage.
Despite the county commissioners’ request to reopen the plan, they each use their own form of logic to justify why such an act cannot – or should not – be fulfilled.
Ms. Forrence claimed that comprehensive rezoning is not part of comprehensive planning.
Mr. White seemed to claim that since he and his fellow commission members have no desire to request the staff to pull data together for their review, they will not have any data to review!
Mr. White made a motion to “suspend” and then for the Planning Commission to “Cease and Desist” from taking any further action on that request. Ms. Forrence seconded.
At the request of Planning Commission Chairman John McClurkin, County Attorney Michael Chomel explained that the commission is authorized to recommend a comprehensive plan or an amendment to such after holding hearings on any proposed comprehensive rezoning. He stated that such an action requires a look at the comprehensive plan.
But a failure to act on the part of the planning commission does not stop the planning and possible rezoning process. Here’s what happened.
McClurkin: Alright … should the motion pass … what happens next?
Chomel: Well, the process moves forward. It would act as a non-recommendation, which the commissioners could then proceed with ... frankly, it would be more appropriate for you to recommend no change to the comprehensive plan...
White: You just said Comprehensive Plan … you just now managed to talk both sides of what you said. If we are not comprehensive planning, why did you say comprehensive plan?
Chomel: Well, your question assumes a fact that I am not willing to accept that this is not a comprehensive relook at the comprehensive plan.
White:… I said you were saying that is or it is not?
Chomel: You are assuming that it is not … I am saying that I don’t agree with that assumption …
White: No … I’m saying that we don’t have the data …
Chomel: I think a more appropriate characterization would be to say that this is a comprehensive relook at the comprehensive plan … and the data you had for the  comprehensive plan … adopted by the board … you’ve been through that process [recently] … you don’t need to have …
Forrence: Can I interrupt here? … Obviously there is nothing in Article 66B [of the Maryland Constitution] that defines what the planning commission has to do in undertaking a comprehensive plan review … are you saying now that this was a comprehensive plan … rewrite?
Chomel: Are you finished? Because, I don’t want to interrupt.
Forrence: Thanks … Yes, I had a lot to say.
Chomel:… the comprehensive plan … sets out the aspirational goals for growth over an extended period of time [which] are implemented through zoning and subdivision. So, when you are looking at zoning, you are also looking at the comprehensive plan.
Forrence: But it’s not!
White:… because what we are doing is not comprehensive planning …
Forrence: It’s a farce!
Forrence: He He!
McClurkin: So … the options are … to proceed …or to end it now …
White: You can always undertake a comprehensive plan that is more appropriate ... this is inappropriate … therefore; I feel that it is appropriate for us to cease and desist...
McClurkin: So, your motion again was to … cease and desist with no recommendation …?
McClurkin: Alright … Is there any further discussion?
Floyd: My only comment would be that as I read this …
Forrence: Okay, let’s go!
Floyd: I would really think that we should add to the motion … sending this all forward to the county commissioners with no recommendation, period.
Forrence: That’s what we said!
McClurkin: Mr. Lawrence, do you have any comments?
Lawrence: Well, only that in reading what I got … it’s the Board of County Commissioners [who] voted to initiate a comprehensive plan and zoning review … any property owner will have the opportunity to request any change to the land use plan … and the application period will be open … and that was the extent from the information that I have … It is not only a review of these cases tonight, but the entire … plan that was passed. So … we are in the same process …
White: I want to clarify that I had not realized the inconsistency quite so clearly … until that pretty well coalesced in my mind …
McClurkin: Alright, Ms. Wolf …
Wolfe: I’ll just listen to the arguments going back and forth.
White: He He! Poor thing. Ha Ha!
McClurkin: Any further discussion?
White: One other statement ... county commissioners can institute comprehensive rezoning. They cannot institute comprehensive planning. Is that correct…?
Chomel: The issue is not strictly speaking: “Who can compel whom to do what?”… You’re part of a process. That process has been initiated by the board … In a perfect world you would participate … to the best of your ability … If you want to make a statement by not undertaking what is properly your role … that goes beyond the scope of my advisory capacity to you.
White: Ha Ha Ha!
Forrence: We just need to make a decision!
White: You’re right …
Forrence: Stop! Let’s just …
Chomel: Let me respond to that. It’s not your role to make decisions as to the propriety of initiating the review or not. Your role is to accept the initiation and proceed with it.
Forrence: Which is why, I think … there is nothing wrong with this [plan]… I just think it’s crazy!… nuts! …
McClurkin: Alright! Eric, do you have a copy of the motion…?
Soter: What I have is “Discontinue the proceedings of, he said, rezoning” … and Commissioner Forrence seconded …
White: To be added to that: “and to forward a recommendation to the board …to continue the current plan and zoning in effect without change …”
Forrence:…and, if it is necessary, the planning commission can have one more public hearing … in front of the public …
White: Ha Ha
Forrence: Let’s just!!!
McClurkin: Okay … so we have a motion on the floor …
White: Ha Ha Ha!
McClurkin:… All those in favor …
Forrence: He He!
McClurkin: Signify by raising your hands.
[White, Forrence, and Floyd raise their hands]
McClurkin: All those opposed, please raise your hands.
[McClurkin and then Lawrence and Wolfe raise their hands.]
McClurkin: Alright, so the motion carried 4 - 2
Lawrence: How did you [McClurkin] vote?
Forrence: Are you [McClurkin] for it or against it?
McClurkin: Ahh … I’m for it!
Forrence: Oh, he’s for it!
McClurkin: Ha Ha Ha!
Forrence: Oh, you’re for the vote?
McClurkin: Yeah. So …
Forrence: Okay, can you do the vote again, please?
McClurkin: Please raise your hands again … if you are in favor of it …
White, Forrence, McClurkin and Floyd raise their hands
McClurkin:1, 2, 3, 4 … all those opposed…
Lawrence and Wolfe raise their hands.
McClurkin: Okay... Motion carries four – two … Where does that leave us for the evening?
White: That leaves us to apologize to these people … He He He …
Thank you, Mr. Chomel, for explaining to our Planning Commission members how the process of Comprehensive Planning works!
What a joke!
He He He … Ha Ha Ha!
Rocky Mackintosh is the owner of a land and commercial real estate firm based in Frederick. He is also the editor of the MacRo Report Blog.