The Planning Board has the following general functions:
- Quasi-judicial decision-making authority following a required public hearing
- Administrative decision-making authority following a public meeting
- Advisory authority following a required public hearing
- Administrative rule-making authority
The decisions from this body have wide-ranging implications on the County's residents. Unfortunately, those decisions seem to lack the appreciation of those impacts on the County residents.
Consider for example the mulching and composting bill the Board passed in 2017 - CB60/ZRA180. Citizens expressed concern regarding its deficiencies and there was extensive debate about permissible activities according to the bill. There were also complex technical factors. The Planning Board ignored all these concerns and voted to pass the zoning regulation amendment (ZRA).
Anyone who attended the Savage Settlement hearing can only conclude that the Board needs reform. The deliberations by the board were lacking in substance and did not instill confidence on anyone that proper decision making processes were being followed.
Residents need a County-appointed attorney to represent them in land-use matters.
The County's zoning laws are complicated. Developers hire experienced attorneys to help navigate these laws during normal course of business as well as during disputes.
In some cases, citizens have concerns about development proposals. When these disputes are heard by the County, the developer is represented by an attorney. Residents are not able to afford one and therefore navigate the complex laws themselves. In many cases to no avail.
One example of such hearings are held in a quasi-judicial format. The County has created a process that favors those who are steeped in the arcane rules and procedures of the review process.
Just because a public hearing is held does not mean that a fair process has taken place. If not presented in the proper procedural fashion, legitimate environmental concerns and concerns over strains on public infrastructure will be overlooked.