Yates seeks veto power over planning panel Proposal would give county commissioners say on developments

Campaign promise is cited

Brown opposes plan

Carroll lawmakers are skeptical, critical

November 29, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

One of Carroll's county commissioners has asked state lawmakers to give the commissioners veto power over the planning commission, a radical departure from the current development-approval process.

The proposal from Commissioner Richard T. Yates is among the bills the commissioners will ask Carroll's General Assembly delegation to support in Annapolis this winter.

With the commissioners and lawmakers scheduled to discuss the county's annual legislative package Tuesday, the Yates plan is already drawing fire.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said yesterday that he is opposed to the proposal.

"It is not the best judgment to take discretion out of the planning commission," said Mr. Brown. "It is our job to set good, clear policy under which the planning commission can work."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Under the proposal, which is patterned after legislation in Frederick County, the county commissioners would be allowed to overturn planning commission decisions on residential and commercial developments. Currently, the county commissioners have the final say on zoning matters.

"Planning commissions have more power in counties with commissioner government," said Dave Duree, planning commission chairman. "In charter counties, the county council has ultimate authority."

The proposed limit on the planning panel's independence stems from a campaign promise, according to an Oct. 16 letter Mr. Yates wrote to Del. Richard N. Dixon.

"The ultimate decisions should lie with the elected officials and not the appointed ones," Mr. Yates wrote. "The elected officials must now stand accountable to the voters for any decisions, regardless of how unpopular, made by those appointed."

Mr. Dixon, Carroll's only Democratic legislator and a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he has not seen the exact wording of the proposal but that he is skeptical. "Why do you have a planning commission, if you are going to overrule it?" he asked.

Planning decisions have come under intense scrutiny recently from residents opposed to rapid growth, particularly in South Carroll.

The county commissioners moved last winter to extend their influence on the panel by increasing the membership from five to seven.

"The commission is doing a fine job, but I want the ability to overrule their decisions in the event they don't," Mr. Yates said yesterday.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster Republican, wondered why the commissioners would want the power to overrule their own appointees. It smacks of a county dictatorship, he said.

"They have stacked the planning commission with people they want, and they have taken all the farmers off it," said Mr. Haines.

Mr. Yates called the commission "more dictatorial than us. We're elected for four years; they serve five years no matter what," said Mr. Yates. "We have to take the heat; they don't."

Mr. Duree said that as a private citizen, he supports the proposal.

"Some of what the planning commission sends to the commissioners can't be amended by them," he said.

"Basically, we now have a take it or leave it policy that's too inflexible. There needs to be back and forth, particularly on subdivision regulations."

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