Planners seek congressional help Postal Service says zoning doesn't apply

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

Two county planning commission members have asked Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and the state's two U.S. senators to use congressional influence to bring the U.S. Postal Service to the bargaining table.

Commission Vice Chairman Joseph H. Mettle of Sykesville and member Grant S. Dannelly of Marriottsville want the delegation's help because they believe the postal service has "completely rejected county government."

At issue is the intention of the postal service to provide access to a new post office in Eldersburg from a residential street. The county wants to restrict access to a street designed for commercial traffic.

The County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Aug. 29 to allow a new post office on a 3-acre site at Route 32 and Bennett Road on condition that the sole access be from Progress Way in Eldersburg Business Center.

But postal official Philip E. Wilson told the board in an Oct. 30 letter that decisions about where to put post offices are not subject to local zoning laws and reviews.

"Often, there is a diversity of public opinion on where new facilities should be sited," Wilson said in his letter. "We consider those points of view through contact with designated state and local government officials. Ultimately, however, our facility decisions must reflect heavily on operational needs and the availability and suitability of sites."

Wilson concluded his letter by saying the postal service would provide access on both the residential street -- Bennett Road -- and the commercial road -- Progress Way. "I trust this meets the needs of the community," he said.

Mettle and Dannelly told Bartlett and Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes in their Nov. 14 letter that it does not.

"Carroll County residents living next to the proposed site are adamant about not having [access to] Bennett Road," they told the elected officials. But the fact that postal officials brought up "federal sovereignty clearly indicates their plan to do as they please regardless of public sentiment or of the wishes of our county officials," they said.

Mettle and Dannelly called on the congressional delegation to set up a meeting with postal officials, residents, local officials and the congressional representatives to resolve the issue.

Phil Straw, a staff assistant to Bartlett, said he is aware of the concerns. "It is possible that we will ask the appropriate postal authorities to meet with concerned citizens and postal customers," Straw said. Bartlett, a Republican, wrote postal officials Aug. 20, telling them the concerns of Bennett Road residents.

William R. Lally, a postal service legislative affairs representative, responded in a Sept. 4 letter to Bartlett, giving him the identical message Wilson later sent the Board of Zoning Appeals.

"We will consider these points of view through contact with designated state and local government officials," Wilson said. "Ultimately, however, our facility decisions must reflect heavily on our operational needs and the availability and suitability of sites."

Mettle said he and Dannelly wrote the letter after meeting with the Bennett Road Homeowners Association. "They asked for advice," Mettle said, "and I told them to write their congressmen. I told them I would write the letter and they could sign it. But they said they didn't want to be the tall pole in the tent, so I agreed to sign it and Grant [Dannelly] signed on with me."

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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