Yates' ally is tapped for zoning panel post Commissioner's friend chosen over activist

February 21, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Hobart "Hoby" Wolf, a longtime political ally of Commissioner Richard T. Yates, was appointed yesterday to the three-member Board of Zoning Appeals.

The 72-year-old Eldersburg resident succeeds the late James A. Zester Sr., who died of a heart attack Feb. 3 while on a Caribbean vacation. Yates had appointed Zester, who was also an Eldersburg resident, to the board last fall.

Wolf, a longtime pilot who owns an airfield on Oklahoma Road in Eldersburg, did not apply for the position. Wolf said that he was told of his appointment in a phone call yesterday.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who voted against Wolf's appointment, said he has two concerns about it.

"My first concern is that he is the owner of the largest parcel of undeveloped property in South Carroll -- about 70 acres," Brown said. "Philosophically, he's wearing a developer's hat."

Brown also worries about what he perceives as Wolf's opposition to the planning commission's efforts to provide resident involvement in the development process at an early stage.

"I believe the BZA should be more accessible to the public and schedule meetings in the evenings," Brown said. "This [appointment] is a step in a direction away from that goal."

Development issues

Eldersburg resident Dan Hughes, founder of a slow-growth advocacy group called Solutions for South Carroll, agrees.

Hughes was offended by a remark Wolf made at a Feb. 4 planning commission meeting concerning resident involvement in development issues.

Posting signs and notifying adjoining lot owners on any property where four or more lots are to be developed, as the commission proposed, would "let the inmates run the asylum," Wolf said at the time. "You will be inundated with minutiae."

Hughes is still smarting from the remark. "Would that be your first choice to serve on a citizen board?" he asked.

Hughes had championed Eldersburg resident Carolyn Fairbank, chairwoman of Freedom Area Community Planning Council.

"The best candidate was stepped over," Hughes said. "Not that I have anything against Hoby, but Carolyn was the best choice."

Brown also favored Fairbank. Although he said he was put off by her confrontational style when he first met her years ago, he grew to "respect her as someone who did her homework and researched the issues."

"She would have been an ideal participant [on the appeals board] -- someone who would study an issue thoroughly before making a decision," Brown said.

'Fighting all along'

Wolf, who lost a close race for county commissioner in 1966, said he was the Carolyn Fairbank of his day 30 years ago when he and Yates opposed commercial developers.

"We've been fighting all along, as far as I'm concerned," Wolf said. Hughes and Fairbank are "Johnny-come-latelies. People who know me will say, 'He's no friend of builders -- he's not in builders' pockets.' "

Developer Richard L. Hull, president of Carroll Land Services Inc., says Carroll's building community "is just going to have to wait and see" what kind of board member Wolf will be.

"He has a business background, and I would hope that he has some understanding of law and business," Hull said. "But I would have preferred someone other than a South Carroll resident" be appointed, he said, because growth is such an emotionally charged issue there.

Yates, who campaigned on a slow-growth platform, cited his long-standing friendship with Wolf as his reason for selecting him.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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