|Willett Branch stream|
Anderson apparently had a private meeting with developer Equity One on Friday, September 11, 2015. Now, while planning staff are known to meet privately with developers, actual planning commissioners should not be doing so. Commisioners, including the chair, are supposed to consider the plan after it has been developed by planning staff, who have incorporated public input from all stakeholders. Then they cast the ultimate vote to approve or reject the plan. To be engaging directly with developers, or attempting to shape the outcome from the beginning, is not only inappropriate, but is also usurping the role of the professional Planning Director.
A little over a month later, a Parks Department employee complains to a colleague that Planning Board commissioner Norman Dreyfuss - despite Anderson having promised her the chance to make her case for the naturalization of Willett Branch stream - has instead begun the worksession "like a bull out of the gate ready to pounce" on behalf of (guess who?) Equity One.
"So obviously teed up by EO [Equity One]...meeting with him to say that this greenway will destroy their ability to develop," Montgomery Parks Senior Planner Susanne Paul writes to a colleague during the session.
I recall that worksession, where the topic of the viability of the naturalization project seemed to come out of nowhere. It will be interesting to see what more can be revealed about private meetings with planning commissioners, who put on a face to residents during the process as if they were hearing all of this for the first time.
I'm sure activists and residents supporting the Willett Branch proposal would like to know how much any private meetings played a role in the project now "fading as a priority," in the words of County Council President Nancy Floreen.
What happened to ex parte communications guidelines? I don't recall Anderson, Dreyfuss, or any other commissioner publicly announcing any disclaimer about having met offline with developers.