Sparks fly over Yates appointment Slow-growth activists say snub of Fairbank was aimed at them

'All pure politics'

Commissioner named Wolf to post on zoning appeals board

March 07, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A routine appointment two weeks ago to the county Board of Zoning Appeals continues to produce political sparks for Commissioner Richard T. Yates in South Carroll, where concerns about development have become paramount for a growing number of neighborhood activists.

Slow-growth advocates in the county's fastest-growing area say the appointment Feb. 20 of Yates confidant Hobart D. "Hoby" Wolf Jr. over Carolyn Fairbank, chairwoman of Freedom Area Community Planning Council, was a political payback aimed at punishing them for their activism.

Fairbank said Yates told her in a phone conversation yesterday that he had appointed Wolf purely as political payback. "He was unequivocal in making that statement," Fairbank said.

Yates said he spoke to Fairbank but denied characterizing the appointment as political.

"It was not purely political," Yates said. "I was disappointed that she was associated with certain activists in South Carroll."

Fairbank said Yates was referring to Joseph H. Mettle and Grant S. Dannelly, county Planning and Zoning Commission members who were appointed by Yates.

"He told me Mettle and Dannelly were running amok in South Carroll," she said. "Hoby's appointment was a way to get back at them."

Mettle and Dannelly have opposed several of Yates' recent actions, including his vote to remove funding for the planning commission's night meetings. Those monthly sessions rotate among communities around the county, usually drawing large crowds of residents interested in growth issues. Both men have said recently that they will not support Yates in his re-election bid.

Mettle said yesterday that he is considering filing a complaint with the State Ethics Commission. "The commissioners should be held to a standard of ethics," he said. "What Yates told Carolyn Fairbank was unethical."

Yates, an Eldersburg resident, said he considered nominating Fairbank to the appeals board but that heavy lobbying by Mettle and Dannelly in her favor changed his mind.

"I thought it inappropriate that they were demanding I appoint Carolyn," Yates said. "It made me ask why they were insisting on her appointment. I represent 145,000 people, not just those in South Carroll."

Yates said he rejected Fairbank because "on the record she is so anti-growth." He switched his support to Wolf, a nomination seconded by Commissioner Donald I. Dell. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown voted against the Wolf appointment.

"Hoby has been fighting for slow growth longer than Carolyn has been in the county," Yates said.

Wolf suggested months ago that Yates consider appointing Fairbank as soon as a seat became available on the appeals board or the planning commission, the commissioner said.

"Hoby said it was a good idea to appoint Fairbank and that she had done good work," Yates said.

zTC Fairbank has taken several courses with the Maryland Office of Planning in anticipation of an appointment. She "set the groundwork" to be an informed appointee, she said.

Fairbank was interviewed for the job by Brown and Yates shortly after the death of James A. Zester last month created a vacancy on the appeals board.

"All of it meant nothing," Fairbank said. "This is all pure politics, and I take it as a personal affront."

With four South Carroll residents on the planning commission, Yates said, he thought that appointing another to the zoning board would "tie his hands."

"Carolyn is closely associated with the stop-growth group," Yates said. "It is inappropriate that she be on a board which she had addressed many times before."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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