Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson appears to be on track for a third term following an interview with the County Council Tuesday afternoon.
Anderson, who has served as chair since 2014 and as a member since 2011, is running for a third term on the five-member board, which is in charge of crafting master plans, shaping zoning and land use policy and reviewing park plans.
One other candidate seeking the leadership position, which pays an annual salary upwards of $200,000, is progressive activist Brandy Brooks of Wheaton.
During Tuesday’s interviews, a majority of council members informally said they looked forward to Anderson for another term, including council members Hans Riemer, Sidney Katz, Craig Rice, Will Jawando and Nancy Navarro.
Anderson touted his accomplishments of implementing the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan—a 20-year vision that includes housing improvements as well as adding more parks and other environmentally-friendly features.
He also noted that the Planning Board has acquired more than 300 parks and manages another 200 that are under control of Montgomery County Public Schools. This is important, he said, because the county’s oversight of parks can help minimize the use of artificial turf on athletic fields and maximize the use of recreational facilities.
Asked how the county should be zoning for retail establishments, Anderson said the priority should be making sure zoning laws favor small businesses, such as hardware stores and dry cleaners, as opposed to national retail chains.
“Our issue is that we don’t have quite the right kind of retail,” he said.
Anderson also said he believes efforts by the county to increase affordable housing through the moderately priced dwelling unit (MPDU) and accessory dwelling unit (ADU) programs has been important in accommodating the needs of low-income residents. But he added that more needs to be done in the area of expanding public transportation to underserved areas.
Anderson also said, in response to a question from Navarro about how he gathers feedback from constituents about economic development, that the Planning Board has gone to great lengths to meet with constituents in restaurants, and to solicit feedback via text message, through advertisements displayed on buses.
The Planning Board chair also said he wishes less emphasis was put on the recent job growth in Northern Virginia. His complaint followed the decision of Amazon last year to locate one of its new headquarters there instead of Montgomery, and several economic reports from outside organizations that state Maryland is falling behind Virginia in job growth.
“My pet peeve is the fixation on Northern Virginia as the one and only competitor or job center that we need to be focused on. I would not deny that Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport are important to our economic future. But there’s a big region out there. There’s a major center of life sciences employment in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins [University]. There’s major federal government investment in bio weapon and defense at Fort Detrick [in Frederick]… The Purple Line is going to tie us into Prince George’s County and the University of Maryland,” he said.
Anderson added that Montgomery County should be looking to the examples of major tech centers such as Boston, Silicon Valley, California and Raleigh, North Carolina for inspiration.
The council is set to take a vote in closed session at the end of the week once the interviews are complete for the Planning Board chair position, as well as a seat opening as the term of Norman Dreyfuss expires.
Brooks and five other candidates are running for the open seat. Brooks is scheduled to be interviewed later this week.
Once the council makes a selection, it must be approved by County Executive Marc Elrich.
Elrich has said he is “not a fan” of Anderson due to what he sees as policies that have not helped low-income and minority residents, but he said last week that he doesn’t plan to veto any candidates.
Navarro said in an interview that despite the strong showing of support for Anderson as chair, the council will still take a vote.
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks here, myself included, who feel strongly about Mr. Anderson’s tenure, in terms of what he’s been able to do in innovative ways. But anything can happen,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org