Anne Arundel County Executive Reforms Zoning and Project Approval Process

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh (Source: Anne Arundel County)

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-01-12) announced that Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has issued Executive Order 82, which will reorganize land use and permitting personnel and reallocate decision-making authority in order to streamline zoning approvals. The executive order is based on recommendations the Soltesz Group consulting firm, which was commissioned by the county to review its development and project approval process. The article detailed the personnel changes:

Two of the executive order’s three points swap employees between the Office of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Inspections and Permits, in an effort to “enhance efficiency and communication,” according to a draft of the directive.

All county engineer reviewers, who are currently housed within the planning and zoning office, will be reassigned to inspections and permits, while zoning enforcement inspectors, who work for inspections and permits, will be moved to planning and zoning. Both changes will take place by April 1.

Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for Schuh, said between 20 and 30 employees will be affected by the switch. No jobs will be eliminated in the process, according to Schuh, though he said as the reform process advances and people settle into new departments, “we may find opportunities for savings.”

The article also stated that the executive order also grants mid-level employees more power to make routine zoning decisions in order to move projects more quickly through the process starting on February 1.

“Right now, decision-making authority is concentrated at the top of these departments and, in effect, those very senior individuals become bottlenecks because junior and mid-level officers can’t make decisions on their own; they have to always go to the top,” he said in an interview Monday.

“What we’re going to do is create a set of rules and guidelines to establish the parameters of authority at significantly lower levels in these organizations, in these bureaucracies, so that decision-making can happen much more quickly, much more efficiently, without always having to go to the senior officers.”

The article explained that Schuh plans to introduce legislation in the coming months to further reform and change the zoning approval and development review process. Several of the proposed changes include allowing the use of third-party certified engineers to review projects, reducing the number of planning and zoning reviews for each project, and changing the major subdivision process.

Useful Links

Anne Arundel County Press Release on Executive Order  82 (2016-01-12)

Executive Order 82