Chairman resigns from planning unit Running new firm cited as main reason for his departure

'A stabilizing force'

3 members have left the commission in last five weeks

August 21, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

David T. Duree, chairman of the Carroll County Planning Commission, resigned yesterday, becoming the third member to leave the board since mid-July.

Duree, chairman since October, said he resigned to devote more time to his fledgling company, Innova Ltd., a consulting business that helps develop alternative wastewater systems. He submitted his resignation to the County Commissioners yesterday morning and later made the decision public at a planning commission meeting.

"Given the high mortality rate of new businesses, I can ill afford to devote the time necessary to ensure the success of my business and also fulfill my responsibilities as a member of the Planning Commission ," said Duree, who is a partner in the New Windsor company. "It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Carroll County."

Attorney Robert H. Lennon was removed from the seven-member panel on July 15 by the County Commissioners on a 2 to 1 vote, and Zeno M. Fisher Jr., citing health reasons, quit nine days later.

The announcement caught Duree's successor, Vice Chairman Robin M. Frazier of Manchester, by surprise.

"I think I'm the only member of the commission who didn't know," she said. "When I saw the TV camera crew [from the local cable channel], I knew something was up."

Frazier will not wield the gavel as chairman until next month's meeting, but her ascendancy was apparent yesterday. Developers and citizen activists who used to lobby Duree during meeting breaks instead cornered Frazier in the hallway while Duree was being interviewed by the cable television reporters.

Duree's departure was received with regret.

"David was a stabilizing force during a fairly tumultuous time," said Thomas G. Hiltz, a commission member from Woodbine. "I appreciate his efforts to keep the focus of the commission."

Hiltz's perception of Duree was shared by others, builders and slow-growth activists alike.

"Mr. Duree spent a lot of time and energy in stabilizing the development and review process," said L. Patrick Dail, government affairs representative for the Home Builders Association of Maryland. "It is unfortunate that he's moving on."

Slow-growth advocate Carolyn Fairbank of Eldersburg agreed.

"It's going to be a loss to the planning commission," said Fairbank, who is president of a newly formed community organization, the Freedom District Planning Council.

"He brought an element of stability to the planning process. He leaves a big hole."

Duree said one of his proudest achievements was helping the commission reach consensus on standards to determine whether new subdivisions can be built in areas of the county with overcrowded schools.

During his tenure as chairman, commission members often were bitterly divided over development issues. When subdivision plans were considered, for example, the board often split 3-3, forcing Duree, who chose not to vote except in the case of a tie, to break the deadlock.

"I became chairman at a critical time in Carroll County history," he said.

He also presided over one of the most contentious times in the commission's history.

When the commission changed a long-standing policy to make subdivisions of three lots or less subject to the county's adequate-facilities law, the county delegation became incensed.

Carroll legislators retaliated by pushing a bill through the General Assembly that would have overturned that decision. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The bickering and name-calling, which ebbed after the adoption of the school adequacy standards in late June, re-emerged in mid-July when Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates ousted Lennon from the panel.

The commissioners voted to remove Lennon because of the county Ethics Commission's finding that the Westminster attorney had violated provisions of Carroll's ethics law.

Lennon, who has rejected the findings and appealed his removal to Circuit Court, says that he was treated differently from Duree, who also did business with developers.

The difference, Duree said, is that he asked for a ruling from the Ethics Commission regarding his business ventures, and that he absented himself from discussion or votes on matters relating to actual or potential clients.

"The secret to working as a public official is that you must publicly disclose any possible conflict," said Duree, a civic activist who joining the commission as an alternate in 1991.

"Public disclosure is the guarantee of the elimination of conflict of interest," he said.

Pub Date: 8/21/96

dTC

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