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MoCo Quietly Extends Planner's Term

Never mind that the County Council and its staff knew for four years that there would be a vacancy on the Planning Board on June 15, when Commissioner John Robinson's second four-year term expired.

And never mind that sometimes in the past, when a commissioner's term expired and the council did not quickly pick a replacement, the seat sat empty until a successor was named.

This time, the council and Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson quietly came to an agreement to delay picking Robinson's successor until later this summer, allowing Robinson to stay on as the panel attempts to complete some major pieces of work.

The five-member board is in the midst of discussions about a new growth policy, a new master plan for the western portion of the area near Gaithersburg and a new master plan for the White Flint area, among other weighty and politically volatile topics.

The decision to allow Robinson to stay a bit longer was not publicly announced or formally voted on by the council. It has not sparked any dissent from members, council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) said.

Robinson, a lawyer at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable member of the Planning Board, said Tuesday that he is available to serve until July 20, when he leaves for vacation in China. That means he might be able to inform the debate but not necessarily vote on all the issues, because some might linger past that date.

Hanson and Andrews said they thought it was a good idea to keep Robinson on. "Otherwise we lose the benefit of his expertise," Andrews said.

Jim Humphrey, who heads the land-use committee for the Montgomery County Civic Federation, said he finds the move troubling.

"The council has chosen to ignore state law in delaying this appointment," he said. "Why did they not get it done?"

On June 16, a day after his term expired, the council interviewed six candidates for Robinson's seat.

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said he was puzzled by the move. "I am not sure why we are doing this," he said.

Robinson was appointed to the Planning Board in 2001 and reappointed in 2005. In addition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Robinson has worked on real estate, finance and employment issues in the private sector and federal rail regulatory change in the public sector. He also has been a civic activist, serving as president of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, the Noyes Children's Library Foundation and the Kensington Historical Society.

By Anne Bartlett  |  June 25, 2009; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Miranda Spivack  
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