PlanHoward Academy

What is the PlanHoward Academy?

The Academy is a planning course designed by the Department of Planning and Zoning to promote understanding of local government and provide information about current planning efforts, learn how to access web-based information, build relationships with staff and learn about the plans, policies and procedures that shape our county.

The Academy originated with Executive Kittleman committing to involve residents far more in planning. “People have asked me for an opportunity like this, so we put together a curriculum that would educate those interested in planning, zoning and land development,” said Kittleman. “This is another way we can open up government to our residents, helping them understand how decisions are made, how they can participate in the process and allowing them to become ambassadors to their communities.”

Who Participates?

The Academy is open to county residents and offered at no charge. Classes are held every week over five consecutive weeks in the spring and fall and are taught by a combination of planning staff and industry professionals, with interactive activities, group discussions and take-home exercises. Students who attend the classes receive a certificate at the conclusion of the Academy.

When Can I Apply?

The next Academy will be held in the Fall of 2018. However, applications are currently not being accepted in order to accommodate residents from previous application periods. We thank those who have already expressed interest in the Academy. If you are interested in the Academy you can receive information by signing up here for updates

What We've Done

The Academy launched in the Fall of 2017 with its inaugural class of 25 residents. DPZ built on the success of the first Academy and increased the number of sessions to five (5) for the second class, held in the Spring of 2018. Attendees of both classes came from many of Howard's communities including Columbia, Clarksville, Ellicott City, Laurel, Elkridge, Jessup, Fulton, Woodstock and Woodbine. A key aspect of the Academy’s selection process includes diverse representation by race, age, geography and length of time living in the county.

Initial outreach was a great success with over 130 residents applying, an indication of the high level of community interest out there. Inside the Academy you get a closer look at the county's planning processes through presentations, table exercises, role playing and small and large group discussions. Residents are able to network with one another and build relationships with DPZ staff, an important goal emphasized early on in the Academy's development. The result provides a great opportunity for residents to become better informed about the important role they play in shaping the county's future.  

County Executive Kittleman and the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) appreciate the time and dedication of all Academy participants and look forward to the contributions these graduates make to our local government and continuing to provide opportunities for residents to effectively participate in shaping their communities and our county's future.

Additional Information

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.

Who:  Residents interested in Howard County's planning 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, each other 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; and
  • become part of an informed network of citizens who understand their role in planning and development decisions.

Next Session: Fall 2018

Where: Howard Community College

Class Quotes

"It was excellent and informative. Please attend to learn more about how zoning works and how you can participate in the decisions that are being made in your own county."

"If they want to understand the changes they see around their neighborhood and the county as whole, this is an essential starting point for navigating planning, zoning, and development."

"If we want Howard County to continue to be a great place to live, the citizens need to be active, but we need to be informed in order to be active. This course gives a great background to help you act constructively."

"Incredible opportunity to learn the ins and outs of matter your current level of knowledge. If you care about development in Howard County, you will learn how to take part in the process and make your voice heard."

"If you want to learn more about planning and zoning, about how Howard County's process works, and how you (as a resident) can give input on zoning and other plans - this is the place to come."

"It is a great learning experience and a wonderful way to meet others in the community who have similar interest and the outstanding staff who make the county a place where folks can feel heard and appreciated."

Sign Up For Updates!

For more information:

Kristin O'Connor |

Peter Conrad |

Karitsa Holdzkom |


PlanHoward Academy is held on the campus of Howard Community College in their state-of-the-art classrooms. The county is grateful to partner with this community educational institution whose mission is to serve our community and to provide pathways to success for everyone whose life goals can be realized through education . Below is a recent email from HCC staff in response to our thanks for hosting our spring 2018 Academy: 

"We’re happy to know that our facilities have continued to meet your needs and we look forward to assisting you again in the future. Your communications made it a very easy arrangement to manage.”                        

- Director of Auxiliary Services, Howard Community College, May 15, 2018