Council to Vote on Thrive, Interview Finalists for Temporary Planning Board

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council is scheduled to vote on Thrive 2050–a plan drafted by the Planning Board that serves as the county’s vision for future land use

Council President Gabe Albornoz said at a media briefing on Monday that he is confident Thrive 2050 will pass following a straw vote last week where the majority of his colleagues voted in favor.

The council will also begin finalist interviews for the temporary Planning Board. The entire board resigned on Oct. 12 after weeks of controversy and ongoing investigations.

County Executive Marc Elrich expressed his continued opposition and concerns with Thrive 2050 in a letter last Thursday. Elrich urged the council to disapprove Thrive and send it back to the Planning Board for additional review, outreach, and public hearings.

“Councilmembers have indicated that they intend to approve the plan on the same day they will appoint five new temporary members to the Planning Board. They seem to believe that Thrive was not affected by the pattern of misconduct that led to the wholesale termination of previous Board members. I respectfully disagree,” Elrich wrote in the letter.

The County Executive further criticized the insufficient attention given to equity issues, the platform for a countywide rezoning to allow for a diversity of housing types, building more housing without addressing the need to improve housing affordability, and that the community was not engaged in this process.

“During the last 18 months of Council work and community outreach on Thrive Montgomery 2050, you have had numerous opportunities to engage in a productive dialogue with your Council colleagues and offer proactive solutions that would make progress on housing and transportation challenges,” Albornoz responded to Elrich in a letter on Friday. “Instead, you choose to focus on obstructing a proactive approach for Montgomery County’s future.”

“Additionally, your letter mistakenly suggests that because the Council lost confidence in the Montgomery County Planning Board members and swiftly took action to address the issue, that all the work of the planning staff, Council staff, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee and the Council is meaningless. This is pure political posturing,” Albornoz wrote.

Local activists have also expressed concerns in the hiring process of the Planning Board. They are critical of how quickly the council wants to appoint temporary board members. Under Maryland law, the process to fill vacancies on the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission shall take “at least three weeks” from the time the list of applicants is completed, and before an appointment is made available to the public.

However, the council intends to have five new temporary members on the Planning Board by Oct. 27–nine days after the application deadline.

“The designation of temporary acting officials is a longstanding and necessary part of government operations. Maryland law supports the Council’s action to temporarily fill these vacancies to allow government to function and ensure continuity of service,” Montgomery County Legislative Information Officer Sonya Healy told MyMCM.

The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County sent a letter to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Sunday asking the following questions:

  • Can the Montgomery County Council change the statutory term for Planning Board appointments so that they are only temporary appointments?
  • Can the Montgomery County Council change the statutory appointment process for Planning Board appointments and eliminate the statutory 3-week period between making the list of applicants public and the appointment date?

“The appointment of Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioners and its Chairperson are of great public importance as the Montgomery County Planning Board actions impact virtually every land use decision in the County,” the letter reads. “We look forward to your prompt response as time is of the essence in this matter.”

Albornoz said the council will release a list of finalists for the temporary Planning Board Monday afternoon. Interviews for finalists will begin at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday and they will be televised live on County Cable Montgomery and streamed on the Council’s Facebook page.

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