- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Department gets new title to match new look
By MEGHAN RUSSELLStaff writer
Businesses, developers and residents who have come to know Calvert County’s land use agency as the Department of Planning and Zoning can expect to see a new name above the office’s doorframe; starting July 1, the department will go by a new title.
On Tuesday, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners heard public testimony and approved 4-1 to officially change the name from planning and zoning to the Department of Community Planning and Building.
Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R), who voted against the motion, said, “I just don’t like change. ... I’m always a believer that proof’s in the pudding.”
Clark said he thought the change would be confusing for people to get used to and that it would be time-consuming to make the change as needed to county documents.
“I’ll probably never change what I say,” he said.
“It’s gonna take a while,” Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) said. Someone asked him what the new name would be recently, and he said he couldn’t think of it.
But Nutter said he understood the source of the change, adding, “When you use the term ‘community,’ that holds more.”
The department’s director, Chuck Johnston, said the name change is meant to reflect other changes taking place within the department, after mounting community concerns in recent years that the department is not as customer-friendly as it could be. In December 2011 the department was reorganized and positions reshuffled with the aim of improved efficiency, and construction begins this Friday on the third floor of the County Services Plaza to physically restructure the department and make it more customer-friendly, he said.
“It strikes me that our functions do include more than just planning and zoning,” Johnston said. “The department’s name should probably reflect these larger responsibilities.”
The purpose of the department, he added, is “to focus on planning and building a better community. ... The symbolic shift, I think, can perhaps help us turn a corner and start a new day.”
Currently the department contains four divisions: policy; development review; appeals, variances and exceptions; and inspections and permits, the latter of which Johnston said amounts to 30 percent of the department budget and staff and is not reflected in the existing department name.
The only speaker at the hearing was F. Hamer Campbell Jr., vice president of government affairs for the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association Inc., who said the development community would actually like to see inspections and permits moved to the Department of Public Works “because of the technical nature of its operation.”
However, Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said he felt that request was separate from the name change issue but suggested planning and zoning staff consider whether it might be best to relocate inspections and permits as it continues analyzing department functions.
Commissioner Steve Weems (R) said he supports the new title of community planning and building.
“The term would be ‘branding,’ that comes to mind,” he said.
Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said she recently learned the zoning function of the department, which “because of controversy in the past, it got more attention than maybe it should have gotten,” amounts only to a small percentage of the overall department functions.
“I think it signals we’re trying to put things in an appropriate, proper perspective,” she said of the name change.
Deputy Director Mary Beth Cook said she didn’t think there are many references to the department’s current name in zoning ordinances so updating those “shouldn’t be a problem.” She added that the department will continue to use its existing letterhead until it is depleted.