Land-use panel admits troubles Personality conflicts hurt operation, members say

March 22, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Respected land-use planner James Caldwell is quitting the Howard County Board of Appeals leaving behind a panel that by several accounts is not operating very smoothly.

In announcing his resignation last week and in an interview yesterday, Mr. Caldwell stressed that the reasons he will leave April 30 are to spend more time in his new job as director of environmental protection for the Montgomery County government and to spend more time with his family.

County Council member Charles C. Feaga said Mr. Caldwell will be missed: "I think he's been one of the best we've had [on the board]."

The board meets two evenings a week, with sessions occasionally lasting past midnight. Its job is to decide the cases of those seeking exceptions to land-use restrictions.

It remains to be seen what Mr. Caldwell's departure means for the board, which is troubled these days by internal frictions.

"The board has a lot of personality differences," said George Layman, the chairman, adding that it is working poorer than at "any time I've sat on that board."

He added that if these differences aren't resolved, he, too, may resign.

Mr. Layman said board member Don Messenger, an attorney, As for his possible replacement on the board, Mr. Caldwell said: "We could use a professional planner more than another lawyer."

Two other factors are causing problems for board members:

The public is less receptive to exceptions these days, Mr. Layman said. As an example, he noted a plan to construct a 12-unit home for low-income, elderly residents in Ellicott City. More than 50 people spoke against the plan, Mr. Layman said. He said the public also is quicker to accuse board members of political motivations.

The Howard County Council recently decided not to fill a position vacated by Jack Andrews, an administrative assistant to the board who often explained the exceptions process to skeptical protesters thereby blunting some of the criticism it faced.

In regard to that vacancy, board member Evelyn Tanner said: "I think that the board has changed in the last few years not necessarily for the better."

She declined to comment on the differences between Mr. Layman and Mr. Messenger, saying: "I'm not going to get into personalities."

The fifth member of the board, Jerry Rushing, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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