Council Selects Anderson As Next Planning Board Chair

Casey Anderson, after being selected Planning Board chair on TuesdayThe Montgomery County Council on Tuesday selected Casey Anderson to take over as chair of the Planning Board.

The selection was approved by an 8-1 vote, with Councilmember Marc Elrich the lone member opposed.

Anderson, now a commissioner on the Planning Board, interviewed in front of the Council last week with four other candidates who all said they supported the smart growth policies that have served as the basis for recent master plans allowing for redevelopment around transit stations and urban centers.

Planning Board Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss, former Councilmember Mike Knapp, Planning Department Deputy Director Rose Krasnow and Chevy Chase activist Meredith Wellington were the other finalists in the running.

There didn’t seem to be much substantial difference between the candidates, at least not in the Council interviews. Some looked at the interest groups backing each candidate for clues.

In his application, Anderson said he would be committed to the goal of completing all sketch plan reviews for proposed development in 90 days and preliminary and site plan reviews of projects in 120 days.

Anderson also wrote that traffic tests used in master planning and project review processes “are too often in tension with the county’s job creation and community building goals,” and don’t adequately take into account pass-through traffic in Montgomery County that comes from neighboring jurisdictions.

Wellington, a Planning Board commissioner from 1999-2007, seemed to be the other candidate to garner some support on the Council. Elrich, who was said to support Wellington, did not nominate her during the Council vote on Tuesday.

She was a clear favorite of many civic and neighborhood groups in Chevy Chase. The Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, a collection of 20 local neighborhood associations, endorsed Wellington, pointing to her work on behalf of the organizations during the Friendship Heights Sector Plan and her help in explaining the zoning rewrite.

District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner on Monday wrote a lengthy message to people in his district who weighed in for Wellington. Berliner explained why he chose to back Anderson, first saying that he has “the greatest respect for you — and for Meredith who is a highly qualified candidate for the position.”

Here’s an excerpt of Berliner’s message:

However, there are many in our community that appear to believe that creating great urban nodes, more transit, and mixed use development is in conflict with the wonderful quality of our existing neighborhoods.  I utterly reject that premise.  I have had the privilege of representing — and fighting for — some of the finest residential neighborhoods anywhere.  And I will continue to be a vigilant defender of our neighborhoods in the years ahead.  The fundamental fact is that dynamic, urban nodes and mixed-use developments are not in conflict with wonderful residential neighborhoods — indeed, they are complementary and synergistic. One can surely look to the Edgemoor community in Bethesda to see that is true.

When I assessed the candidates for Chair that our Council met with and interviewed, a uniformly strong and impressive group, I concluded that Commissioner Anderson comes closest to holding the vision I have for our County’s future.  And I say that as a member of the Council that has not always agreed with Commissioner Anderson on some issues.  But make no mistake about it, he is a strong proponent of smart and sustainable growth, served by world class transit.  These are the key components of a strong future for our county.

While each of us has our own experiences, my experience of Commissioner Anderson is that he has consistently demonstrated a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and respectful approach to issues guided by core principles.  In those conversations, he has always affirmed his commitment to preserving both the integrity of our residential neighborhoods and the agricultural reserve.  What is more, he is a person of great intellect and passion for his work, two qualities that will serve him well as Chair.  He is generous with his time, and willing to meet with any member of the community to discuss issues facing our community – the big ones and the small ones.  His door is always open.

If Commissioner Anderson does garner a majority of my colleagues’ support on Tuesday, I am confident that as Chair he will help lead our county to a more dynamic and prosperous future that embraces and builds upon our existing terrific community assets.

The Council on Tuesday also voted to raise the salary of the Planning Board chair to $200,000 a year, a number members of Council was competitive with other jurisdictions.

Anderson will assume the chair position on Aug. 4, taking over for Francoise Carrier. Carrier announced she would not seek another term earlier this year.

In his opening remarks, Councilmember George Leventhal praised Anderson and cautioned the Council about its future relationship with the Planning Board. The County Council has final say on the master plans that the Planning Board approves, which sometimes brings about disagreements on zoning and other master plan details.

“I hope council members will reflect on the interaction between the chair and the Planning Board, and Mrs. Carrier in particular,” Leventhal said. “I believe that the interaction with this Council was not a happy one from her perspective and I think that was a factor.”

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