Bailing out from planning commission Carroll County: Body that has become lightning rod for growth issues needs stability.

August 23, 1996

THE RESIGNATION of David Duree from the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission is a loss for a highly contentious body that is in great need of stability, experience and direction.

And yesterday's court-ordered reinstatement of Robert H. Lennon to the commission is a rebuke to the county commissioners for their inept political meddling with the panel. Taken together with the abrupt resignation of Zeno M. Fisher Jr. from the commission a month ago, this is a critical passage for the planning body.

Public conflict over development and growth decisions has sharply escalated in recent years, and the commission is the first line of conflict resolution. Informal or unstated procedures that sufficed in the past no longer meet the increasingly high-stakes decisions facing the commission. Politicization of the debate, with increased interference by the county commissioners, added to the pressures.

Amid this upheaval, some have proposed that no person with a potential conflict of interest be appointed to the commission. Mr. Lennon, an attorney for landowners, and Mr. Duree, a consultant for wastewater treatment systems, are cited as examples. So, too, are farmland owners with vested rights of "off-conveyance" of subdivided lots from their property.

But the list could stretch much further, excluding almost everyone. As a volunteer body that relies on member interest in these time-consuming matters, the commission would be hard pressed to find a quorum.

Mr. Duree, as chairman, tried to steer a middle course of compromise and moved the commission toward firm standards and publicly declared procedures. But only after the issues bTC erupted in controversy. He cited demands of running his new business as grounds for stepping down. But the continuing uproar over commission decisions, and his potential conflict of interest, certainly played a role. His expertise and leadership, and moderation, will be difficult to replace.

The commissioners, meanwhile, will find their replacements for Messrs. Duree and Fisher closely scrutinized by a critical citizenry. Their challenge is to restore stability and impartiality to the body. We hope the commissioners will act responsibly in the public interest in making these new appointments.

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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