Howard County Blog

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Focus Group Open Thread

What did those who attended the Focus Group think of it? What do those who were unable to attend think of the FAQ's the Department of Planning and Zoning put out? I will post Thursday on my thoughts, but I would like to hear fro you first. If you don't want to put your thought in the comments (which is best), you can also email them to me.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

E,

Can you give us the heads up on the cultural amenities? Was this just a list published in a vacuum? Are ther comparables to other cities of similar size? Other cities in Maryland that are smaller, but have more cultural pegs to hang a hat on?

Peace and Love My Friend

10:17 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

There was no side by side comparison though someone did bring up that they thought no other city our size has as much as we do. Of course my thought is we are planning for 30 years from now when we will have a lot more people. I had a list of things I thought we could add, but I was reluctant to use the times I was called on to give the list because there were more important things for me to say that had broader impact.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some of these FAQs are, to put it as politely as I can, misleading. For example, the Environment FAQ says "County development regulations currently offer protections for wetlands, streams, 100-year floodplains and larger areas of steep slopes by prohibiting development activities in these areas. Protective buffer areas must also be established for streams and wetlands, and these areas must also remain undisturbed." To anyone reading that, wouldn't it be easy to assume that undisturbed means undisturbed?

Yet, the Howard County Code 16.116 (from municode.com) says "(c) Necessary Disturbance:
(1) Grading, removal of vegetative cover and trees, and paving are not permitted in wetlands, streams, wetland buffers, stream buffers or steep slopes unless the Department of Planning and Zoning determines based on a detailed justification provided by the developer that:
(i) It is necessary for construction of public or private roads, driveways, utilities, trails, pathways, or storm water management facilities which are essential for reasonable development of the property;
(ii) The design minimizes disturbance;
(iii) There is no other reasonable alternative; and
(iv) The cost of an alternative improvement shall not be a factor in deciding whether the criteria in subject (i) above can be met."

So, it is pretty much at DP&Z's discretion as to if wetlands, wetland buffers, streams, stream buffers, and steep slopes can be disturbed. What are the criteria for the required detailed justification? I've been unable to locate any. Is section i's "reasonable development" defined? Not that I can find. Is section ii's disturbance minimization quantifiably defined? Not that I can find. Who is responsible for determining if section iii's reasonable alternatives exist - the developer, DP&Z, or some other party? And how and when would these reasonable alternatives for comparison be solicited/submitted for consideration with the developer's justification? In my opinion, these all add up to huge loopholes (that the FAQ ignores) that allow sensitive environmental areas to be lost.

I have seen plans get approved that unnecessarily disturbed these kinds of areas. To DP&Z's credit, the plan review process is a very information-intensive process and they catch a lot of booboos, but they don't catch them all. In other words, the best protection against development plans that do disturb these areas is constant scrutiny and action by as many interested, informed parties as possible.

11:56 PM  
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Anonymous Video Focus Group said...

Hi,

Focus groups are a somewhat informal technique that can help you assess user needs and feelings both before interface design and long after implementation. In a focus group, you bring together from six to nine users to discuss issues and concerns about the features of a user interface. Focus groups can be a powerful tool in system development. You shouldn't use them as your only source of usability data. People with an advertising or marketing background often rely solely on focus groups to expose products to users. Thanks...

9:58 PM  

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