Howard County has unveiled improvements to the county website designed to increase the transparency of the development review process.
The webpage provides enhanced access into the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) Alternative Compliance process, which in certain cases can grant relief from strict compliance with specific land development regulations. The county also announced plans to file legislation that would strengthen land development regulations, promote forest conservation and safeguard the environment.
“Transparency is a cornerstone of good government and a priority of my administration,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “We are making it easier than ever for residents to learn about our land development regulations and access all of our alternative compliance information. In response to ongoing concerns about the granting of waivers, we will also file legislation to make development requirements stricter and our environmental protections stronger. The future of development in Howard County will be smarter, more transparent, and more environmentally conscious.”
Alternative Compliance Website
The new website includes an overview of the alternative compliance process, a searchable GIS map of alternative compliance decisions, an interactive reporting tool providing nine years of data on alternative compliance decisions, a “frequently asked questions” page, and case studies covering actual alternative compliance decisions.
Alternative Compliance Legislation
The transparency improvements provided by the website serve as a pre-cursor to upcoming legislative action, as Ball will be filing legislation to tighten the county’s review of requests to approve alternative compliance for land development regulations in coming weeks. The proposed legislation will add new criteria for reviewing alternative compliance applications, with a focus on stricter requirements, especially around environmental regulations. It also creates a multi-agency approval process that requires multiple departments to approve certain alternative compliance requests.
Forest Conservation Legislation
The main purpose of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act is to minimize the loss of Maryland’s forest resources during land development by making the identification and protection of forests and other sensitive areas an integral part of the site planning process. Ball’s proposed legislation would make more than a dozen changes to Howard County forest conservation law, to bring it into compliance with the state law. In addition, the law will be strengthened to help conserve forest resources onsite and increase replanting requirements with incentives for reforesting within the same watershed.