2021 | Government

New Planning Board appointee wants to focus on housing, transit, economic development

Rubin has opposed aspects of I-270 project, saying more ‘holistic’ approach needed

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Carol Rubin was recently appointed by the County Council to the Montgomery Planning Board.

Photo from Montgomery Planning website

A recently retired Planning Department staff member said she will focus on housing, transportation and economic development as she joins the county’s Planning Board.

Carol Rubin served as an attorney in the county’s Parks Department from 2005 to 2008, and later the Planning Department as an attorney and then a staff member from 2008 to 2021. She said in an interview Wednesday that she hopes to be sworn in on the Planning Board by its Nov. 4 meeting.

The County Council unanimously appointed Rubin to the Planning Board on Tuesday. In a news briefing Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich told reporters that he will confirm Rubin’s appointment. 

Rubin, who has also worked in the county attorney’s office, said one difference between her work as a staff member and her work as a soon-to-be Planning Board member is that she can have more of a direct impact on policy decisions involving transportation, the environment and development, among others.

The county needs more housing, Rubin said — and not just affordable housing, but also units for those with higher incomes, since there is demand across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Rubin said the Planning Board can serve as a “tool in the toolbox” to help encourage more economic development and job growth countywide.

She is interested in environmental issues, along with bettering the transportation network in the county. The upcounty area has gaps in public transportation, she added.

“The county has got to look at a good, strong regional approach to a transportation plan that is affordable and provides the services to those people that don’t have accessibility,” Rubin said.

Rubin has represented the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which consists of appointed officials from both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, in matters involving the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study. That study is part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to widen I-270 all the way up to I-70, along with parts of the Capital Beltway, and to reconstruct the American Legion Bridge.

The project’s first phase includes reconstructing the bridge and constructing two high-occupancy toll (HOT) managed lanes in each direction. The price tag for it is about $6 billion.

Rubin said she is concerned about the governor’s current proposal. The Beltway and I-270 need more capacity, she said — but the current project does not take a broad approach to solving road congestion in the region.

She said state transportation officials have not considered important factors, like land use, planning and development in the area of the project.

 “I think [phases of the project] need to be done as one of the pieces of an overall transportation plan, but what’s missing is the variety,” Rubin said. “In other words, I believe that the State Highway Administration or Maryland [Department of Transportation] has not taken a holistic approach to try to solve the congestion problems that we have.”

Because of that issue and many others, Rubin said she’s excited to start serving on the Planning Board. 

“I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve gotten both by the [County] Council and broad support from individuals and organizations from all different ilks,” she said.

Rubin will succeed Natali Fani Gonzalez, whose term is scheduled to expire in 2022. Fani Gonzalez left the Planning Board to run for County Council.

She will serve with four other members: Chair Casey Anderson (D), Gerald Cichy (R), Tina Patterson (unaffiliated), and Pratap Verma (D).

An Aug. 10 notice from the county seeking board applicants stated that part-time board members, which will include Rubin, each make $30,000 annually. Anderson, who is full-time, earns $215,727.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com