Action on zoning process delayed Vote is postponed on plan to take power from appeals panel

September 05, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners will wait at least 10 days before voting on a proposed ordinance that would strip the Board of Zoning Appeals of its role in Carroll's subdivision process.

The commissioners chose not to vote on the proposed ordinance after a brief public hearing yesterday at which one attorney testified. The commissioners agreed to "keep the record open for 10 days" to receive additional comments.

Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates are seeking the ordinance because the appeals board has frequently approved subdivision plans that have been rejected by the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

Six of the commission's seven members were appointed by Brown and Yates to implement their slow-growth philosophy.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said a change in the appellate process is unnecessary. He said any conflict between the planning commission and the appeals board would be resolved once the commissioners pass an adequate facilities law to manage the county's growth.

Brown and Yates want appeals of planning commission decisions to go directly to Circuit Court.

Those decisions can be appealed to the Circuit Court now, but first must go to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

From Aug. 30, 1996, until Aug. 30 this year, nine planning commission decisions were appealed to the zoning appeals board. Of those, four also have been appealed to Circuit Court -- one by a developer, three by the planning commission.

Appeals board members did not comment during yesterday's hearing.

Chairman James Schumacher told the commissioners afterward that he felt the appeals board "provided a system of order" by allowing development to proceed once the schools and other infrastructure were in place to support it.

The appeals board has required builders to phase in their developments, applying for building permits only when needed facilities are in the final construction stages. The planning commission has rejected phased development in most instances.

Brown said the appeals board should deal only with a mistake made in a planning commission decision. A commission policy not to allow phased development isn't a mistake, he said.

But "if the phasing plan solves the problem of an inadequate school, how could we not consider it?" Schumacher asked. "We sit, listen to the facts, and make decisions in the best interests of Carroll County."

Appeals board member Karl V. Reichlin agreed.

"Slowed development has happened," he said. "Our decisions have not speeded it up."

"The concern I have," Brown said, "is that we seem to have two planning commissions under this scenario."

Westminster attorney Bradford I. Webb told the commissioners that the county doesn't have the authority to require an appeal to go directly to the Circuit Court.

"The planning commission will have to have days and days and days of hearings" if the commissioners pass such a law, Webb said.

Attorneys will seek to "make a record in every single routine matter" to avoid malpractice suits should the case eventually wind up in court, he said.

If the planning commission refuses to give attorneys that time, they will sue, challenging the legality of the proposed law, Webb said.

If the proposed law is illegal, why haven't laws limiting appeals to circuit court in other counties been challenged? Yates asked.

"I can't say," Webb said. "I can only say that it will happen here."

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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