The county's Planning Board, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Credit: Steve Bohnel

Montgomery County residents interested in having a voice in the direction of the county can fill two vacancies on the Planning Board. The chair and another commissioner board seat will be up for grabs and applicants have until 5 p.m. April 3 to file their application.

Those applying should indicate in their cover letter if they are seeking the chair position. Councilmembers will vote on who to fill the chair position and other opening.

County Councilmembers appointed temporary Planning Board commissioners last fall, after the entire board resigned. That followed a series of drama including finding alcohol in former Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson’s  office, and Anderson allegedly using vulgar language in the workplace, the latter claim he denied.

After the commissioners resigned, the County Council appointed five people to fill their seats for a temporary period. Recently, three of their terms ended—Cherri Branson, a Democrat; Amy Presley, a Republican; and David Hill, an unaffiliated member. The council replaced them with James Hedrick, a Democrat; Shawn Bartley, a Republican; and Mitra Pedoeem, an unaffiliated member. 

The council will accept any party affiliations for the remaining two seats, as long as applicants are registered voters in the county. State law requires that no more than three members of the Planning Board are from the same political party.

Jeff Zyontz, chair of the Planning Board, and Roberto Piñero, another commissioner, are both Democrats. Zyontz said previously he will not seek either the chair or the other open seat.

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Piñero said he hadn’t decided on whether to stay on the board, but was leaning toward not applying.

“I haven’t made a final decision, but I’m inclined not to,” Piñero said. “I’m retired and it’s a lot of work … I would be glad to stay, but my whole thing was to step in because of the crisis they had with the [prior] Planning Board.”

Piñero added that he was impressed with Planning Board staff and Zyontz’s work as chair, given his experience working for both the Planning Board and County Council.

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“He knows the issues in and out,” he said.

Piñero added that he has focused on equity issues while serving, namely development and housing matters in the east-west and north-south Montgomery County divide.

“I’ve always been concerned with the fact that this county has become more and more unequal, in terms of areas that have stayed behind, and other areas that have overdeveloped,” Piñero said.

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In a news briefing Monday, County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) said the council would appoint and seat two new Planning Board commissioners by the end of June. He declined to “speculate” on whether the council would pick two Democrats for those seats.

The Planning Board Chair, a full-time position, makes $228,000 annually. The other four commissioners, in part-time roles, make annual salaries of $30,000.