September 09, 1993

If Carroll County is to be a good place to do business, the commissioners and town officials will have to learn how to say "no" -- at appropriate times -- to developers, businessmen and businesswomen. If these government officials don't learn how to turn down some of the more outrageous requests, Carroll will lose its allure for new business and may even begin driving out old businesses.

The Westminster zoning appeals board's recent approval of Tevis Oil's request for a sign variance for a proposed convenience store, sandwich shop and gasoline station in the heart of town -- without any modifications -- is a prime example of a government entity not protecting the public's interest. Even though citizens and the chairman of Westminster's Historic District Commission made some well-reasoned criticisms of Tevis Oil's request for an oversized and inappropriate sign and canopy, the zoning board did not take any of those comments into account in approving the proposal.

To his credit, company president Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis acknowledged the legitimacy of the criticism and promised to reduce the size of the proposed 20-foot pylon sign and replace some of metallic exterior finishes with materials more in keeping with the historic neighborhood. Mr. Tevis, however, can change his mind. We hope that the planning commission makes some of these modifications mandatory before approving the project.

Another example of government overreaching to curry favor with developers can be seen in the county commissioners' discussions about waiving fees and permits for new businesses. Even though these developers might get a small break, the county will lose needed revenue. And it seems highly unlikely that the proposed fee reduction will make or break Carroll attracting these businesses.

In many ways, developers are like children. They will ask for whatever they think they can get away with. Sometimes parents say "no" because it is in the long-term interest of the

development of their child (even though saying "yes" is the short-term easy way out.) Similarly, Carroll's government officials and boards must be willing to say "no" to requests that may appear beneficial to economic development but may actually conflict with the public interest or undercut the county's long-term attractiveness to business.

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