HAMPSTEAD -- After the foul language and stormy tempers that erupted at the last Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the chairman is taking no chances.
One of the town's three police officers will be at the meeting
tomorrow night, lest anyone get out of hand, said Arthur H. Moler, councilman and chairman of the commission.
But the officer won't be in uniform, Mr. Moler said.
"We don't want it to come off as being intimidating or threatening," Mr. Moler said.
"All we're doing is reminding the public that there should be order kept at the meeting," he said. "We don't want the swearing, the threats and the noise we had at the last meeting. At the last zoning and planning meeting, we had one individual that was completely out of order."
That man was among the many merchants who opposed the approval of a new shopping center on Route 30 near the Oakmont luxury home subdivision and golf course.
Even more business owners are expected at tomorrow's meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the town hall.
Glenn Weinberg, manager of North Carroll Plaza, and other business people are urging the commission to deny approval of the new center. They say that with so much space available in existing shopping centers -- including one entirely vacant -- there is no need for a new one.
North Carroll Plaza has the most to lose if the new center is built, because the Super Thrift grocery store plans to move there. The supermarket is now one of the anchors at North Carroll Plaza.
Mr. Weinberg said the town's laws require the commission to determine whether a need exists for the new plaza.
However, Mr. Moler has maintained that because the zoning is appropriate for the new center, all the commission can do is make sure the developers follow guidelines and laws as they build it.
If the commission approves the center, Mr. Weinberg said, he believes one of the businesses affected will appeal in court.
Mr. Moler said that if someone starts using foul language or accusing the town officials of being crooks -- as happened a month ago -- he will direct the police officer to ask the person to tone down the behavior or leave.
The meeting last month was the worst he has seen, said Mr. Moler.
Roberts Field residents Wayne and Barbara Thomas were there and agreed that one merchant did lose his temper. But they said they thought having a police officer was unnecessary.
"That's their livelihood," Mrs. Thomas said. "They get very passionate about it."