Hampstead rejects testing adequate facilities clause

October 13, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

In a story in yesterday's Carroll County section of The Sun, the chronology for certain events in Hampstead was incorrect. The town Planning and Zoning Commission gave preliminary approval to 220 homes in North Carroll Farms on Aug. 29. A resolution was introduced Sept. 13 in the Town Council to test the municipal adequate facilities clause in court. The confrontation between William Drummond and James Springer occurred at the Sept. 26 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Amid a chorus of catcalls and jeers, Hampstead Town Council members this week rejected a resolution that would have put the town's adequate facilities clause to a test in Carroll County Circuit Court.

The resolution, offered by Councilman Wayne Thomas at the Sept. 13 meeting, would have sought a writ of mandamus from the court ordering the town's Planning and Zoning Commission to deny or defer preliminary approval of subdivisions in accord with clause.


Town officials have been told school facilities in the area are inadequate. Nevertheless, on Sept. 26 commissioners gave preliminary approval to 220 homes in North Carroll Farms, an action that spawned the resolution and an outcry of public protest.

The proposed writ, which orders an official to follow the law, would have included a request to halt building until the issue was resolved. Town ordinances give Hampstead officials the right to seek such writs as a check on the commission, Mr. Thomas has said.

"What a crock . . . ," a resident called out as the council rejected the resolution 3-2. Others cried "this is ridiculous" or "bogus" when council members Gary Bauer, Jacqueline Hyatt and Arthur Moler voted against the resolution, as Councilmen Thomas and Dwight Womer voted in favor of it.

"Don't we get a chance to comment on this?" asked one resident, who stomped out when other audience members told him he'd have to wait until the end of the meeting.

The expense of hiring an outside law firm to shepherd the writ through the court system appeared the main reason council members rejected the resolution, which called for Bowersox and Ostrander in Westminster to take the case.

Michelle Ostrander, formerly with the county attorney's office, dealt with planning issues while with the county.

"Why would the opinions of those attorneys be better than those of the Attorney General or our own attorneys?" Mrs. Hyatt asked.

Mr. Thomas replied that the town's attorneys, Walsh and Fisher of Westminster, have acknowledged that they are not familiar with some planning issues, unlike Ms. Ostrander.

Mrs. Hyatt insisted that the resolution was not supported by a majority of taxpayers in Hampstead.

Councilman Womer protested, saying that when he campaigned for office, a majority of voters told him they were concerned about the rapid growth in the town.

Town attorney Charles O. Fisher recommended the council reject the resolution, saying the issue is likely to be resolved by the county Circuit Court in the near future anyway.

"Two actions of the planning commission have been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals and whatever the decision is, they will be appealed to Circuit Court," Mr. Fisher said. "Both are already on track to get what Mr. Thomas and everyone else in town is looking for."

Mr. Fisher seemed unmoved by Mr. Thomas' argument that the cases may be dropped after the board hearings.

Derisive laughter and jeers erupted again in the audience when Mr. Moler, who is also chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, contradicted Mr. Thomas' description of an outburst that occurred during the Sept. 26 commission meeting.

Residents who attended the meeting have said William Drummond, the commission's newest member, became hostile when James Springer of North Carroll Farms spoke in favor of deferring preliminary building approvals until the schools are adequate.

Mr. Moler denied that Mr. Drummond yelled during the confrontation, saying he was speaking in his "normal, deep, bass voice."

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