Board rejects plans for two subdivisions New criterion for adequate facilities applied for 1st time

Lennon ouster criticized

Initial proposal for River Downs gains approval

July 17, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The county Planning and Zoning Commission, citing inadequate facilities for schools, rejected subdivision plans for the first time in two months yesterday.

Its denial of a 21-lot subdivision in South Carroll and a 15-lot subdivision near Manchester was based on a new

adequate-facilities criterion for schools, which was adopted June Yesterday marked the first time the board had used the criterion.

Generally, the criterion requires the board to reject subdivision plans when school enrollment is 10 percent or more above capacity and no new schools or additions are planned.

Yesterday's meeting came a day after the Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to remove Westminster attorney Robert H. Lennon from the planning board for violating provisions of the county ethics law.

The county Ethics Commission said Lennon's legal work on behalf of owners of small lots on agricultural lands violated two provisions of the law. The commission said Lennon voted on an issue that affected his clients and should refrain from doing so.

Lennon's supporters have maintained that the commissioners' decision to remove him was politically motivated and spurious.

No one mentioned Lennon's absence yesterday until 55 minutes into the 6 1/2 -hour meeting, when Vice Chairman Robin M. Frazier, a Lennon ally, denounced what she called "the mock hearing on a trumped-up charge that occurred" Monday.

Frazier, her voice choking with emotion, aimed most of her wrath at Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, saying Lennon's ouster was "a new low for Commissioner Brown, who has become intoxicated with power since taking office" two years ago.

She said Lennon's removal was the latest in a series of steps designed to make the planning board conform to the slow-growth wishes of Brown and Yates.

"It's obvious there was no violation -- ever," Frazier said. "I'm not .. sure who's next. I'm ashamed of you all that you did not come out and support him."

Frazier said she wondered how many members would come out to support Planning Commission Chairman David T. Duree if he ever had an ethics hearing.

Duree, a principal of Innova Ltd., which markets alternative sewage-treatment systems, said his situation was different from Lennon's. He said he has asked the ethics panel for its advice.

Duree said he is not under investigation and that he has absented himself from discussions and voting whenever it appeared that he might have a conflict of interest.

Moments later, saying he had a professional relationship with the developer, Duree absented himself when the board began considering a request to approve preliminary and final plans for a 50-lot subdivision in South Carroll.

The unusual request to approve preliminary and final subdivision plans simultaneously for the final 50 lots in the River Downs subdivision was needed, planners were told, to ensure that a showcase development called Dream Homes could be built there by next July.

The commission voted to approve only the preliminary plans, but that is not likely to slow the project. The school board recently issued a finding that capacity at West Middle School is no longer inadequate. Additional classroom space has been created by converting an old media center.

As a result, final plans for the subdivision can be approved administratively by the county planning office. The plans will not have to be reviewed again by the planning commission.

In other action, the commission approved final plans for a 13-lot subdivision on Bollinger Road, southeast of Westminster, and a two-lot subdivision on Greenwood Church Road, southwest of New Windsor. It also approved a wetland-mitigation plan submitted by the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in New Windsor.

Pub Date: 7/17/96

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