Council confirms Gilbert as economic office chief

August 14, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County Council has unanimously confirmed the appointment of Paul Gilbert as director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development.

Mr. Gilbert, who has resigned as president and chief executive officer of BLC Properties Inc., developers of Riverside Industrial Park, will assume his duties tomorrow.

Mr. Gilbert, 45, replaces James Fielder, who resigned from the EDC in May to become assistant secretary for business development at the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development. County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann named Mr. Gilbert as his successor in June, but the appointment was subject to County Council approval.

"It has to be said that probably no one is better equipped to do this job," Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson said in voting for the confirmation at Tuesday's meeting.

Mr. Gilbert told the council that he is committed to an "agro-economic plan" and that the farming community will be an integral part of maintaining a healthy economic climate in the county.

"There is so much emphasis on new business that we sometimes overlook businesses already here providing jobs to county residents," he said, adding that he will attempt to obtain local and state assistance for businesses with special needs.

Mr. Gilbert also said that the county needs to give more attention to tourism and promotion as an economic development strategy, and that he looks to County Council members as a resource.

"They know what needs attention in their districts better than I," he said.

Mr. Gilbert had filed to run for a District 34 House of Delegates seat earlier this year, but withdrew his candidacy before he was appointed.

Fourteen bills were introduced at the Tuesday council session, the only meeting scheduled in August. Legislation introduced this month must be voted on before the general election in November.

Among the bills were:

* A measure introduced by Mr. Wilson that would tighten ethics standards and financial disclosure requirements for county employees. The requirements also would cover unpaid members county advisory boards and commissions.

Mr. Wilson had said that he expected the majority of the council members to approve the bill. But some have expressed reservations.

District A Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton said she intends to introduce an amendment to raise, from $25 to $50, the maximum value on gifts that county officials and employees can accept from potentially influential sources.

"A $25 limit in unrealistic in today's age. Some T-shirts cost more than $25," she said after the meeting.

She said she also believes employees under contract to the county should be covered by the guidelines.

Joanne S. Parrott, of District B, said she feels the proposal "will weaken the volunteer structure of many advisory boards."

The bill would expand the jurisdiction of financial disclosure requirements to include 46 unpaid members of advisory boards, including the board of library trustees, personnel advisory board and planning advisory board.

"I think this demonstrates a general air of mistrust by the council president," said Mrs. Parrott. "We have fine citizens who participate in the periphery of our government on these boards, and their participation is very valuable. I think there will be a reluctance now of many of them to participate."

A public hearing on the bill is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sept. 15.

* A bill co-sponsored by Mrs. Parrott and District D Councilman Barry Glassman that would require the county to notify property owners by mail when an adjacent property owner has requested an interpretation of the zoning law.

Mrs. Parrott said the written notifications would alert neighbors of pending changes on a property earlier in the zoning approval process.

The legislation could affect residents such as those who live near a site in Fallston where the United Methodist Board of Child Care wants to build a foster home for 60 abused and neglected youths. In 1991, the board requested an interpretation of the zoning law as it applies to group homes in anticipation of the facility's construction at the corner of Harford and Reckord roads, which lies in Mrs. Parrott's council district.

The Board of Child Care and the Fallston Meadows Homeowners Association, who have adamantly opposed the foster care complex, have been in court over the proposed home for three years.

A public hearing on the bill will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6.

* A package of bills introduced by District C Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno that would provide property tax credits to Harford County historic landmarks. A tax credit equaling 10 percent of the cost of restoration would be granted for a property designated as a historic landmark by the county's Historic Preservation Commission.

In addition, a property tax credit would be allowed for the added value created when a historic landmark is restored. The owner could receive the credit for up to five years.

Another bill would establish buffer requirements for development properties adjacent to historic landmarks. The required width and landscaping of the buffers would be determined by the Historic Preservation Commission.

A public hearing on those bills will be held at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 15.

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