Monday, June 05, 2006

It's good be the king...

Following this post about a University of Maryland study that is critical of Howard County Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, several commenters posted their own thoughts about APFOs and development in general. Although I've read through the study, I haven't had a chance to digest the supporting studies (.pdf's available here, here and here), all of which I think might provide some of the answers to questions raised by commenters.

Then, yesterday I wrote about a proposal to replace the county's Zoning Board with an independent zoning officer, about which I'm still not sure how I feel. But it did get me thinking.

Rather than just a zoning officer, what if you were the chief development officer for Howard County? Not just the head of DPZ or a controlling, Lyndon B. Johnson-type member of the Zoning or Planning Board, but the person completely in charge of zoning, growth, land-use and development for all of Howard County.

Rather than just making this a free-for-all, I'd like to pose a few specific questions now (and probably more later) to see what y'all think. So, here are the first three, which are primarily focused on residential growth:

  • Our current annual housing unit allocation is 1,750 (with 100 of those set-aside for affordable housing), would you increase, decrease or keep this number the same? Why?
  • What type of housing would you emphasize (e.g., single-family homes, townhouses, apartments, condos, a mix of any or all)?
  • In which area(s) of the county would you target this growth?
I know small things like infrastructure get in the way of this discussion, but for the sake of argument assume that the rate of improvements in your ideal world match those that we see (or have seen) in the real world (and, yes, I know that even this is subjective). In short, our quality of life as we currently know it is maintained.

Finally, because I hope for this to be an ongoing discussion, it would be nice if commenters used names to identify themselves. I know I'm the last person to say that you shouldn't be anonymous, but you can still come up with a clever and indistinguishable nickname for yourself to make it easier for me and others to comment on your thoughts.


David W. Keelan said...

I would have to think about that. Having that much power in one person's hands gives me great pause...
Devil (as alway) is in the details.

Hayduke said...

Think big picture for now. Leave aside the details.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Keelan. If you think it's bad NOW - wait until you have one person who cannot be held accountable by the voters, or by his/her fellow Council members. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Anonymous said...

Here, here. Any system intended to function properly needs accountability, checks and balances, a feedback loop, etc. Putting so much responsibility in one set of hands seems too risky. How does the saying go - absolute power corrupts absolutely?

Regarding your three questions:
1. Until schools are no longer overcrowded I would slow growth.
2. If any housing were to be emphasized, I'd emphasize a mix, but give priority to smart growth that incorporated designs that integrated 21st century public transit and green building.
3. Growth, if need be, would be targeted per #2, smaller footprints in the right locations with the right designs. There's a whole lot of space for condos on top of all those big box stores.

Ralph said...

The real "king" will always be the homebuyers. They are the ones who decide what gets built, where it gets built, and how affordable (or unaffordable) it will be. Any discussion of controlling growth needs to start with an understanding of how much of the problem is beyond the control of the government and the developers.

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