No outcry heard on commissioners' action Funding for night sessions of planning panel ended

March 20, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

There has been no public outcry against the County Commissioners' decision to end funding for night meetings of the planning commission, Commissioner Richard T. Yates told the panel this week.

He and Commissioner Donald I. Dell would reverse their Feb. 10 decision to end the funding if there were a "storm of protest" from residents, Yates said.

But there has been no such protest, Yates said. He told the planning commission Tuesday that he has received only one phone call since he and Dell ended funding for the meetings last month.

Monthly night meetings are no longer needed now that the public can participate in subdivision advisory committee meetings -- an early step in the subdivision process -- Yates said. Those meetings are held in the daytime.

The problem with continuing night meetings of the planning commission, Yates said, is that the same South Carroll residents showed up each month no matter where the meetings were held.

"We had hoped the night meetings [in various parts of the county] would attract people from the local area," Yates said, "but the same people were doing the talking wherever we went."

Critics said the commissioners' decision to end funding for night meetings was muzzling resident participation in the development process. But planning commission member Robert H. Lennon of Westminster disagrees.

Lennon believes the night meetings were co-opted by a small group of people with a set political agenda. "We basically listened to the same people pontificate," he said. "They were not giving us any input we were paying attention to. At least 50 percent of the meetings were a waste of time."

Lennon said the planning commission could allow resident participation at night by scheduling its monthly meetings in the afternoon and carrying them over into the evening.

Yates and commission member Robin M. Frazier of Manchester liked the idea, but Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine, Grant S. Dannelly of Marriottsville and Deborah L. Ridgely of Finksburg voted against it.

The dissenters said they preferred to first seek ways to improve the existing process. In the interim, the County Commissioners have agreed to fund the next two night meetings of the commission -- April 3 and May 1.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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