Controversial planning commission, with new cast, meets tonight Session is Lennon's first since ouster in July

September 05, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's long-running political melodrama, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, will open on the road tonight in Mount Airy with a new cast.

The 7 p.m. meeting at Mount Airy branch library will mark the first appearance of Westminster attorney Robert H. Lennon since his July 15 ouster from the planning board by County Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge reinstated Lennon to the seven-member panel last month. Whether Lennon will be returned permanently will be decided by the judge Sept. 30.

Robin M. Frazier of Manchester makes her debut tonight as planning commission chairwoman.

Joseph H. Mettle of Sykesville will seek to become vice chairman tonight and use the post as a stepping stone to supplant Frazier as chairman next month. To do so, he will have to win support from the two newcomers, Melvin E. Baile Jr. of New Windsor and alternate Deborah Ridgely of Finksburg, who join the panel tonight for the first time.

In addition, a former alternate, Grant S. Dannelly, a slow-growth advocate from Marriottsville, is now a full member of the board.

Holdovers Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine and Yates, the representative from the County Commissioners, complete the planning commission's membership.

On Aug. 26, Brown and Yates appointed Baile as a member of the planning commission and named Ridgely an alternate -- one who takes part in discussions and votes when one of the seven members doesn't.

The two County Commissioners believe Baile and Ridgely share a commitment to farmland preservation and to limiting development to areas with adequate facilities.

Even with Lennon's return to the board, Frazier will be in the minority. She has contended that Lennon's ouster from the panel was politically motivated. She and Lennon often voted in favor of development, irking Brown and Yates, who were elected on slow-growth platforms.

Brown and Yates removed Lennon from the panel after the county Ethics Commission declared that the attorney had violated provisions of the county ethics law.

Brown denies any political motivation.

"Simple math shows that Dick Yates and I will have appointed five of the seven members plus the alternate by November 1996 at the latest," he said in a letter to The Sun. "My point is that we had no reason to remove Mr. Lennon. His 'all growth is good' views are already decidedly in the minority."

The new appointments have widened the rift between Commissioner Donald I. Dell and the other two commissioners.

Brown said that when Dell served on the panel along with his appointees Frazier and Lennon, the planning commission was "universally viewed as a rubber stamp for land developers."

He and Yates sought to change that, Brown said, by replacing Dell with Yates as the County Commissioners' representative on the board and by enlarging the panel from five to seven members.

"I must confess that I smile when I hear the development interests cry that Dick Yates and I are stacking the Planning Commission -- as if it weren't previously stacked in their favor by Donald Dell," Brown said. "Call it what you like, Dick Yates and I are doing what we were elected to do -- to see that the next 25 years in Carroll produce something better than 'more of the same.' "

Dell could not be reached for comment. But he said earlier he was livid about being shut out of the process.

Now that slow-growth advocates appear to have a majority, the panel may reconsider Brown's June 21 call for a residential building moratorium in the Eldersburg and Hampstead areas.

Dannelly and Mettle wanted to adopt the moratorium, but settled for a compromise that neither wanted -- an agreement to deny preliminary plans for subdivisions in areas where schools were 10 percent above capacity. Both wanted tougher criteria.

They may get it. Because of a peculiar rule, the compromise was binding only on the four people who voted for it: Mettle, Dannelly, Hiltz and David T. Duree, the former chairman who resigned Aug. 20.

With new members, Dannelly and Mettle may push to move closer to the type of moratorium Brown envisioned.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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