Students get inside view of government

December 09, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Jaime Smith found yesterday that county government was a circus with more than three rings.

"I didn't know things here were set up so formal here," said Jaime, 16, a Westminster High School junior participating in the school's "shadowing experience" program.

"I didn't think that simple problems had to go through so many people and offices in order to be resolved."

Jaime was one of five students from the high school following Carroll's leaders through a typical day.

Personal interest -- and personal reasons -- guided Jaime to the Zoning Office.

"We were studying zoning and the county master plan in political science class and I got interested," she said. "But we own some property where a few proposed planning changes may occur, and I was interested in the effects it would have on the land and its value."

The house and land on Watersville Road, which belonged to her great-grandmother and have passed to her grandmother, are near the site of the proposed Gillis Falls Reservoir.

"I spent about a half-hour in planning talking with [assistant planning director] Marlene Conaway about the comprehensive plan for southwest Carroll County, where the property is located," Jaime said.

Jaime visited the planning office briefly, then spent most of the day with Zoning Inspector Mary Phillips, whose job is to cite land-use violators.

Ms. Phillips took her to the site of a junkyard whose owner has been asked to put her property in accordance with zoning regulations and has been taken to court several times over the past three years.

"I can't believe these people who won't comply with the regulations over three, five or 18 years," Jaime said.

Although her tour consisted mainly of land-use violations, she also saw an exception to zoning rules -- a business legally protected by a grandfather clause that allowed it to set up in an agricultural district.

Jaime said that among the many things she got out of her visit, she has some new ideas about how government should be run.

"I think the county's government needs to shorten the amount of time it takes to get things done," Jaime said. "Too many people get involved with simple projects, and that makes things complicated."

"For instance, with the planning commission -- people who know what they are talking about when it comes to planning issues -- whatever recommendations they come up with on certain issues can be vetoed, so to speak, by someone who doesn't know that much about the subject."

She also had some advice for her grandmother.

"I'm going to tell my grandmother not to sell the house and property yet because it's going to go up in value," Jaime decided.

Three seniors, Elizabeth Crowley, Toni Keller and Sheree Kelly, and junior Eddie Walker also participated in the program.

Elizabeth spent the day at the Emergency Operations Center. Toni went to the county attorney's office. Sheree shadowed Commissioner Julia Gouge. Eddie spent his time in Economic Development.

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