Appeals board member airs gripes about colleagues Council told panel acts as 'rubber stamp'

November 02, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

A member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals has accused four colleagues of forming a political bloc on what he contends should be a nonpolitical body, and of acting as a "rubber stamp" for county government.

William C. Edmonston submitted a letter to the County Council at a public hearing last night on a bill to change the rules under which the Board of Appeals operates. He proposed an amendment that would limit to six months the terms of the chairman and vice chairman of the board, which hears appeals on zoning and other decisions made by the administrative hearing officer.

Joseph Johnson, a fellow board member, signed the letter.

The amendment would enable all seven board members to eventually head the board and would keep the board nonpolitical, Mr. Edmonston told the council.

"There is a rising sentiment that Anne Arundel County has a Board of Rubber Stamps rather than a Board of Appeals and I concur with this opinion," Mr. Edmonston wrote. "There presently exists a four-member 'committee' that seems to be making policy for the board, deciding cases for the board, and in general has taken control of the board to the detriment of Anne Arundel County.

"It now appears that this four-year term of the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals will have only these four members serve as chairman and most policy decisions will be controlled very effectively by these four individuals," he wrote.

Mr. Edmonston also criticized delays in reaching decisions.

"At present . . . the board is signing some decisions as much as a year after the hearing has closed, which is inexcusable when the expected time for a decision from an administrative body is normally 30 days," he wrote.

After the hearing, Mr. Edmonston identified the bloc as Chairman George F. Deuringer, Vice Chairman John W. Boring, and members Barbara M. Hale and Anthony LaMartina. Mr. Deuringer has served as chairman since January. Mr. Boring, who did not attend the hearing, said last night that "I'd heard [Mr. Edmonston] was going to do something like this, but I'm surprised."

In response to the accusation that the board is a rubber stamp, Mr. Boring said: "All anyone has to do is go down [to the Board of Appeals office] and read the decisions. . . . the board is there, we try to go by what the code says, what the law says."

Mr. Boring suspected Mr. Edmonston has an agenda of his own. "Bill seems to vote against everything that the county is for or against. He seems to vote against the county in any way that he can," he said. The vice chairman said he would oppose a six-month term limit. "Six months, to be honest with you, if I had been the chairman for six months, I would just be beginning to learn the job. Personally, I'm not in favor of that," Mr. Boring said.

John Dodds of the Anne Arundel Trade Council expressed concern at the hearing about a proposed rule change that would prevent a property owner from withdrawing an appeal before the board if a neighbor living within 175 feet objects to the withdrawal.

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