Message from the Director

Dear Community Member,

At Howard County's Department of Planning & Zoning, we strive to keep you informed of various planning initiatives and projects, and we value your input. Now we are proud to bring you the first edition our new newsletter, DPZ Digesta more comprehensive look at DPZ's work in our community.

We look forward to keeping you informed about DPZ's latest work on a quarterly basis, so please be on the lookout for future DPZ Digest emails throughout the year!

DPZ at Work

DPZ Administers $250,000 Through the Route 1 Tax Credit Program

Since 2016, DPZ’s Division of Comprehensive and Community Planning has managed the Route 1 Tax Credit Program, which provides up to $100,000 per applicant for external renovation projects on commercial and industrial properties that front the Route 1 Corridor. Last year, the program allocated $250,000 in tax credits to Route 1 businesses for exterior improvement projects, including landscape renovation and upgraded window installation. Businesses like Rathskeller Restaurant, Andrews Equipment Company, and Aierco Supply have all received a property “facelift” that contributes to the aesthetic enhancement of the Corridor.

“I’m very impressed with the program,” said Eric Pitzer, financial controller at Aireco Supply. “It enabled us to put in new windows, get refacing and landscaping done, and make the place look a bit more modern. The tax credit program has definitely helped pretty up Route 1, and I’m a big fan of it.”

The Route 1 Tax Credit Program recently reopened for the year 2022-2023 and qualified applicants are encouraged to apply. To qualify, the property must be under 15 acres in size and have no outstanding code violations. For more information or to apply, click here.

DPZ Secures Renewal of Sustainable Community Designation for Long Reach Village Center

Over the past 10 years, DPZ’s Division of Comprehensive and Community Planning has worked to secure sustainable community designations for specific areas in Howard County that can benefit from revitalization and sustainability efforts. A program of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Sustainable Community status, which must be renewed every five years, makes these areas eligible for state programs and resources that support community development.

DPZ recently secured a designation renewal for the Long Reach Village Center and is currently in the process of seeking designation renewal for Ellicott City. For more information about Howard County’s Sustainable Communities and the state funds they have been awarded, click here

DPZ's Kenneth Short Assists at Archeological Dig

The Furnace Inn restaurant in Elkridge, Maryland is a historic building that once operated as a furnace under the renowned Ellicott family. At the back of the restaurant complex, two smaller historic structures, thought to be former slave quarters, were recently the subject of an archeological dig aided by DPZ’s architectural historian, Kenneth Short.

In July, archeologists from Maryland’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) and curators from its Department of Natural Resources (DNR) excavated the historic site, trying to determine when these two buildings were constructed, how they were used, and who may have lived there. To help assess the structures, Peter Morrill, DNR’s Cultural Resources and Curatorship Program Manager, asked Ken to contribute his expertise.

“We want to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible in describing the buildings, and Ken is a wealth of information,” said Morrill.

Decades of experience as an architectural historian have given Ken a unique understanding of historic buildings, which assists archeologists in making sense of what they uncover underground. His 2009 architectural drawings of the furnace historic complex provided the excavation team with essential background information about the site and the furnace operations that were conducted there in the 1800s. Ken’s on-site input can also help the team create a more precise historical record and implement a more accurate restoration of the buildings, which are a rare utilitarian construction type.

In this case, the size of these buildings, the poor quality of their construction materials, and their location in relation to the main house suggested that they were used to house enslaved people. In fact, the National Park Service Network to Freedom recently added the site to a list of locations that have documented association with the Underground Railroad.

At the site, archeologists found domestic artifacts like ceramic eating utensils, buttons, and tobacco pipes, which further support the theory that the buildings were used to house enslaved domestic servants. A button dated from 1851 suggests that the buildings were built in the 1850s, later than the period of the Ellicotts, who owned the complex in the 1830s and were opposed to slavery. Still, according to Morrill, “Our biggest artifact is the building itself.”

“Buildings are a reflection of people’s lives—through them, we can get an understanding of who we were at an earlier time,” said Ken. “As a critical part of Howard County's past, this is a tie that’s gone but should not be forgotten.”

DPZ's HoCo By Design Releases General Plan Draft Chapters for Public Feedback 

Since 2020, DPZ’s Division of Comprehensive and Community Planning has worked with the community to develop HoCo By Design, Howard County’s 2040 General Plan, which sets the long-term vision for how the County will develop and grow as it adjusts to evolving economic, environmental, and social conditions over the next 20 years.

The information in HoCo By Design is organized into five overarching planning themes related to housing, economic prosperity, transportation, the environment, and community character and design.

Last year, the HoCo By Design project team reviewed and synthesized public input, data, and best practices, incorporating them into an initial draft of the Plan. This year, the team has continued to engage the community by releasing draft planning themes chapters of the Plan for public feedback.

Between March and August 2022, the HoCo By Design project team released the draft chapters on Dynamic Neighborhoods, Quality By Design, Life Outdoors, and Supporting Economic Prosperity, hosting public meetings on the chapters and opening them for feedback online.

Registration is now open for informational meetings about the next draft chapter, County in Motion! Sign up to attend an informational meeting about the chapter here.

This winter, the entire draft General Plan will be released for additional public comment, which will be followed by the Council adoption process. To stay informed about HoCo By Design and opportunities to get involved, register at or visit the HoCo By Design public engagement page.


DPZ Earns Two NACO Achievement Awards

DPZ recently received two Achievement Awards from The National Association of Counties (NACO), which recognizes innovative and transformative county government programs across the country. These awards recognized two DPZ initiatives: the National Road Mile Marker 14 Enhancement Project and the Historic Cemetery Restoration Grant Program.

The National Road Mile Marker 14 Park Enhancement Project was recognized for its site work at the historic Mile Marker 14 area on the National Road. Previously, this area, which features a nineteenth century mile marker that denotes the mileage between Baltimore and Frederick, had been full of weeds, overgrown, and uninviting. In June 2021, the project cleared the site of dead trees, stumps, and weeds, seeding it with native plants and connecting it to the county bike route system. The historic site is now a “wayside place” and park for cyclists and visitors to rest, picnic, and learn about the heritage of the area.

The Historic Cemetery Restoration Grant Program was recognized for its work in funding the preservation of private historic cemeteries. The program provides financial assistance to cemetery owners and managers for the repair and preservation of local historic cemeteries. Since its inception, 11 historic cemeteries have been improved through headstone repair and resetting, invasive plant and tree removal, and installation of fencing and signage to increase public awareness and improve cemetery protection.

Did You Know?

Planning Map Gallery

DPZ's Planning Map Gallery features all kinds of interesting data about the County. To visit the Gallery, click here

Get Involved: DPZ Upcoming Events

Employee Spotlight

Q&A with Annette Merson

Customer Service Representative and Building Review Technician

Describe your role at DPZ.

I work with customers at the Planning & Zoning Public Service Counter to answer questions and resolve issues related to the department. I work with pretty much everything—building permits, zoning verification letters, permitted use letters, home occupations, accessory apartments. A lot of times when people come in here, they don’t know what they need. They may not know what their first step is. Our team will tell them what they will need to do to get a building permit. We assist the public with building permit processes and zoning setbacks for principal and accessory structures. We also deal with commercial building permits and with flood plain and stream buffers, too.

How many years have you been working at DPZ?

I’ve been at the department for 18 year, 15 of those years at this role.

How many requests do you receive from the public?

A lot. We used to have about 50-100 people per day visiting the Public Service Counter. Since Covid-19, we have a slowed down in person but receive more emails.

What is something people may not know about your job?

We have evolved to become an information center. We’re not just zoning; we have become the customer service center for everybody, as we deal with such a variety of inquiries. Almost everyone starts at our information desk—we even get health department questions and building license questions.

What is your favorite thing about your role?

Helping other people. As a customer service rep, you can make their day or break their day. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Not many people can say that they like to come to work, but I love what I do.

What are your hobbies?

I like hiking and horseback riding. I have four horses, including a Welsh pony. The oldest of my horses is 34 years old, and I’m hoping he keeps going strong.

What is something interesting that people may not know about you?

Before joining DPZ, I worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Light Center as a Telemetry Processing Analyst for 20 years. At that role, I received data from NASA spacecraft and reviewed it for quality assurance. 

How can people reach you?

You can forward any questions about Zoning to me at or visit the DPZ Public Service Counter from Monday through Thursday between 8 am and 5 pm, and Friday from 8 am to 3 pm. 

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