Growth ordinance will be discussed at state convention Commissioner Brown to speak Friday at MACO meeting

August 05, 1998|By John Murphy and James M. Coram | John Murphy and James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's new residential growth-control ordinance will share center stage this week during a statewide gathering of county government officials in Ocean City.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown plans to speak about the county's concurrency management ordinance before the 600 government officials who are expected to attend the Maryland Association of Counties annual summer convention.

The much-touted ordinance limits residential building to 6,000 lots over the next six years. The measure allows the commissioners to direct developments to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate, and restrict it elsewhere.

For most local governments, growth continues to be a highly divisive issue, so other counties are watching how the ordinance fares, Brown said.

"At this point, they are intrigued by the amount of support we've been able to summon from all members of the community," said Brown, who will address the convention Friday morning.

Commissioners Richard T. Yates and Donald I. Dell and a number of county department heads will attend the convention, which begins tomorrow and ends Saturday.

The convention sessions tackle local government concerns such as road rage, food safety, tourism and farmland preservation. Between sessions, officials from the counties will be treated to ice cream, coffee breaks and lunches sponsored by such companies as Bell Atlantic, Legg Mason, Cellular One and Giant Food Inc.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening will address the convention Saturday morning.

The formal sessions are part of the attraction, said David S. Bliden, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties.

"As much as sitting at a panel, what's equally helpful is the Carroll County Commissioners meeting with colleagues from Wicomico County or St. Mary's County," he said. "It provides a way for them to brag about their ideas."

In a recent conference, a panel discussion on how to tackle the problem of people running red lights led to the passage of legislation that allows monitoring of intersections, he said.

"It's good to get together and see what other counties and towns are doing," Yates said. "We try to sell them on our ideas, our process.

"I like to try to get ideas for tourism. We don't have an ocean, but we have beautiful rolling land. I hope we can develop a little tourism and a little economic development help, too."

But the timing for this year's conference, a month before the September primary, is not good, Yates said.

"You're not going to find any votes down there," he said.

Yates was unaware that Brown would be addressing the conference.

It is ironic that Brown will be talking about Carroll's growth-control law because it might not have been enacted had Brown not avoided last winter's MACO conference in Baltimore.

While Yates and Dell were attending the conference, Brown met privately with department heads, a land-use lawyer and a bank president to draw up a memorandum of understanding on the adequate-facilities proposal.

Yates and Dell, unaware of the meeting until asked about it by a reporter, were livid.

"It was a strange time for him to hold the meeting," Yates said at the time. "I guess with two cats away, the mice had free rein. He knows full well he can't get anything done without us."

Brown said he intentionally excluded the other commissioners from the closed meeting because if one or both had attended, the commissioners would have been required to hold the meeting in public in accordance with the state's open meetings law.

The commissioners and representatives of the building industry had met in public previously to go over the bill but had been unable to resolve a major sticking point.

Brown said he felt he might be able to accomplish in private what the three commissioners could not in public.

The commissioners and developers had been "trading brickbats for years," Brown said at the time. "We needed to be away from the public posture where we could have some frankness and openness."

Although the other commissioners complained about the way Brown handled the situation, his strategy worked.

The roadblock was removed, and the commissioners adopted a bill in public March 5 that was close to the agreement Brown had worked out in private three months earlier.

Brown said he is looking forward to the summer conference in Ocean City, even if he spends most of his time indoors.

"Frankly, it's exhausting," he said. "We're inside the conference center in suits, and everyone is in swimsuits on the beach. It's an odd situation to be in."

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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