2nd member leaves board of planners Zeno Fischer resigns after doctor advises him to reduce stress

Panel now at 5 members

Departure comes in same month as Lennon was ousted

July 28, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's beleaguered Planning and Zoning Commission lost another member last week, an unexpected occurrence that may aid efforts to slow subdivision development.

Zeno M. Fisher Jr., a seven-year member who suffers from high blood pressure, resigned his post after his doctor advised him not to attend any more of the board's frequently contentious meetings until at least late September.

"I am thankful for the opportunity to have served the county, but I need to be really careful with my health," said Fisher, 50, who, before joining the planning commission, served five years on the county's parks and recreation commission.

Fisher's term would have expired Oct. 31. He resigned now, he said, to give County Commissioners time to appoint a successor who can join in the early stages of revisions to the county master plan, its blueprint for growth.

Fisher's departure reduces the seven-member panel to five and strips the commission of an articulate voice who often brought balance to turbulent discussions, members said.

"Zeno brought a perspective and balance that will be missed," said Thomas G. Hiltz, a planning commission member from Woodbine. "I'm sorry to see him go."

His departure also upsets the board's slim majority that frequently approved subdivision plans despite objections from slow-growth activists in South Carroll and Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates.

Fisher, a Westminster resident, was one of two members not appointed by Brown and Yates, both of whom were elected to office on slow-growth platforms. The other is Robin Frazier of Manchester, who was appointed by Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Brown and Yates, in a move critics say was politically motivated, removed Westminster attorney Robert H. Lennon from the panel this month. His ouster came after the county Ethics Commission said Lennon, also a Dell appointee, had violated provisions of the county's ethics law.

Lennon's legal work on behalf of owners of small lots on agricultural land and his vote on a water and sewer request involving a former client constituted "outside employment" in violation of the ethics law, the Ethics Commission said in a three-page opinion read to commissioners July 15.

The ethics panel said Lennon should refrain from such practices in the future but did not recommend expulsion. Lennon told commissioners he didn't believe he violated the ethics law, but he would agree to the panel's conditions.

Lennon was among the majority who approved new subdivisions. Now, with Fisher and Lennon gone and slow-growth alternate Grant S. Dannelly voting in their stead, subdivision approvals are likely to come a great deal less frequently.

Lennon supporters, including most of the county's State House delegation, have urged commissioners to return Lennon to the planning panel.

Dell, who wants a farmer appointed, is preparing a list of candidates to replace Fisher, but he acknowledged he is uncertain how much weight he has with the other commissioners.

Yates said he expects the board to wait to fill the Lennon vacancy until Brown returns in September. Brown underwent quadruple bypass surgery the day after Lennon's ouster and is recuperating at his Westminster home.

Yates said the planning board can operate with five members, as it did before he and Brown expanded the panel to seven to include representatives from fast-growing South Carroll.

"We can fill the others when necessary," he said.

Joseph H. Mettle, a planning board member from Sykesville, said he wants the positions filled soon to ensure that the commission will have the four-person quorum needed to conduct business at its semimonthly meetings.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

RTC

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