FOUR VEHICLES arrive at the intersection at the same time: a fire truck, an ambulance, a police car and a mail truck. Which one has the right of way? The answer to that old theoretical puzzler is the mail truck, by virtue of its federal government status.
It's an answer that could have helped Carroll County Planning Director Philip Rovang recently, before he wrongly decided that Carroll's Interim Development Control Ordinance took precedence over federal sovereignty in locating a new post office. Despite some egregious choices on where to locate its facilities, the federal government is still the federal government.
Now the county commissioners, on hearing an appeal of that ruling, appear to concede that legal point. So does the planning chief. Plans to build a new, larger post office to serve the booming Sykesville-Eldersburg area can proceed near the heavily congested intersection of Routes 32 and 26.
The current downtown Sykesville office is overburdened and at the edge of South Carroll's growth pattern, while mail routes have increased by 150 percent in 20 years. There's ample need for a new site, with more space and more parking. Sykesville wants to keep a post office to help define its town, but changing demographics suggest a relocation.
Mr. Rovang was correct that extra traffic generated by the postal facility will increase congestion and would not meet county standards if it were another private office building. In making that point, the planner let the community know that he would screen these new applications for compatibility with Interim Development Control Ordinance rules.
At the same time, he overlooked the government facilities exemption written into IDCO, in addition to well-established points of law. This could prove embarrassing for the county in future cases challenging IDCO, which expires at the end of next year.
This incident suggests that legal authority should be consulted by the planning chief, who is admittedly acting under new rules established by the interim growth ordinance. A pro forma review by the county attorney could avoid such surprises, even if laws seem made to be challenged. But for the U. S. Postal Service, the county's IDCO is just another dead letter.
Pub Date: 8/07/96