Application period is now closed.


Academy classes provide opportunities for residents to learn about planning, zoning, land use law, and the development review process that shapes our county’s future. Participation is free and those who attend all four classes will receive a certificate.

Candidates are selected through a rigorous  application process and participation is free. Classes include hands-on exercises accompanied by concise, take-home materials, and demonstrations on how to access information through DPZ’s interactive map and web-based tools. The application period is currently closed and will reopen in 2018.

Who:  Class size is up to 25 residents who have an interest in planning for Howard County and who:

  • live in various geographic areas of the county;
  • represent the county's diverse population;
  • have lived in the county for varying amounts of time;
  • are interested in their community's future.

What: The goal of the Academy is for residents to:

  • build relationships with planning staff and gather information;
  • be better informed about the County’s planning efforts;
  • learn about the land development process, including the growth policy, the role of the general plan, development review, zoning and more;
  • become ambassadors to educate and inform neighbors;
  • learn how to access information through DPZ’s interactive map and use web-based tools;
  • become part of an informed network of citizens who understand their role in planning and development decisions.

When: Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. -- September 27 and October 4, 11 and 18, 2017.

Where: Howard Community College, Columbia, MD

Session Content

September 27, 2017, Session One

Planning Process 101: Learn about the tools planners use to assess current conditions, chart a future vision and implement that vision. This first session will explain the County’s growth policy, the general plan, and development regulations.

October 4, 2017, Session Two 

Zoning & Law: This session will explore the legal underpinnings of zoning and land use decisions; including case law, Supreme Court decisions, and legal processes associated with land development review; including variances, conditional uses, rezoning, and other tools.

October 11, 2017, Session Three 

Development Review Process: Learn how commercial and residential developments are reviewed by a multi-agency review committee, the process to expand or modify an existing development, and how requests for relief from regulatory requirements are considered and processed. The session will explain when and how citizens can more effectively become involved during the development review process.

October 18, 2017, Session Four 

Responsible Growth and Informed Citizenry: This final session will discuss the reasons behind Howard County’s continued growth and its significant changes in demographics. Using the context provided in the first three sessions, participants will engage in a county-wide conversation about responsible growth and how to best position the county to move forward. Participants will also learn how to access information through DPZ’s interactive map and web-based tools.

Application Process

Application period is now closed. 

Participants will be selected by the Director based on the diversity of residential location, organizational affiliation and length of residency. 

PlanHoward Academy is limited to 25 participants. All candidates will be notified of the outcome of their application the week of September 11, 2017. If you were not selected for the fall 2017 class you will have priority status for future PlanHoward Academy classes. 

Sign Up for Updates!


Contact Kristin O'Connor,