Anger follows delay of plan Commissioner calls vote postponement 'political cowardice'

Incumbents deny charge

Board reschedules master plan decision for after Nov. election

September 03, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

A deeply divided Board of County Commissioners yesterday shelved until after the November election the planning commission's proposed master plan to guide Carroll's growth.

The plan, which would have directed development to designated growth areas, set goals for preserving 100,000 acres of farmland, and changed the land use on five properties totaling 223 acres to foster economic development.

The plan was designed to accommodate a population of 200,000 in the county by 2020, a 34 percent increase over the current population of 149,395.

Late last week it appeared the commissioners -- who can accept or reject the proposed master plan but cannot alter it -- were close to approving it. They met with the planning commission for four hours Thursday to iron out differences. They scheduled a work session yesterday morning with the planning staff to discuss recommended solutions.

But Commissioner Donald I. Dell moved that no action be taken, and that the board leave master plan approval to the next Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Richard T. Yates agreed. The work session lasted three minutes.

Work on a new master plan -- the first revision since 1964 -- began Dec. 19, 1995. Four work teams of about 35 people each spent 2,145 hours gathering information and making recommendations for the 125-page document.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who voted against postponement, was livid, calling the vote "a classic case of political cowardice." Dell and Yates are seeking re-election. Brown is running for a seat in the House of Delegates.

"It was this board's responsibility to finish what we started," Brown said. "It is a slap in the face to the planning commission. They worked double time to get it ready for us to act on. And it was a slap in the face to the more than 100 people who served on the work teams.

"In my mind, there is no excuse for it," he said. "We had a job to do, and this board -- at least two of this board -- didn't feel up to the job. I hope the citizens will remember that when they choose the next Board of Commissioners."

Fellow Republicans Dell and Yates were stung by Brown's allegation of political cowardice.

"Cowardice is something that has never been said about me before," said Yates, a World War II veteran who was wounded in the Battle of La Haye du Puys after the Normandy invasion -- punctured nine times by shrapnel, including a piece of his own grenade.

'Never a coward'

"I've been scared when stuff was flying over me, but never a coward," said Yates, who wears a miniature Purple Heart medal on his lapel. Brown's "a lame duck. Who cares?" Yates said.

Dell was incensed by Brown's charge.

"It doesn't surprise me," he said. "It's typical of Ben. He has to get in a personal slander when things don't go his way. If he can't control it, he will destroy it if he can. I shouldn't be saying that. It doesn't help to be tearing at somebody else, but sometimes you have to respond. This is not cowardice. I have made substantial decisions that weren't popular."

The proposed master plan has drawn a lot of comment at forums, Dell and Yates said. As a result, it needs more study, they said, and is too important to be adopted before the November election.

"It is too short a time," Dell said. "It took us from the first of October to the middle of February to develop concurrency management" -- a law that restricts Carroll's residential growth to areas with adequate facilities.

"There are a lot of things wrong" with the master plan proposal that need fixing, Dell said.

"I don't think the plan should mandate a historical planner, and I don't think we should require a farmer to make road

improvements" when carving a lot from the farm, he said. Yates said he agreed not to act on the master plan "because of what I've heard in all the meetings I've been going to when that question came up."

"I think it's unfair to decide that so close to the election. A lot of people put in a lot of effort, some of which has been disregarded by the planning commission. It appears they disregarded what was put into it by people working on the Freedom area mini-plan" to guide growth in South Carroll, he said. Yates is a resident of South Carroll.

Brown finds the "too little time" argument ludicrous.

RTC "We cracked the whip on the planning department to get it to us in time," he said. "They did their job. But we will be walking out the door without doing our jobs. It's a terrible reflection on this board."

Planners disagree

Planning commission Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine and member Deborah L. Ridgely of Finksburg could not be reached for comment. Two other planning commission members Maurice E. Wheatley of Eldersburg and Grant S. Dannelly of Marriottsville -- differed on the commissioners' action.

"It was the proper decision," said Wheatley. "The new board [of County Commissioners] -- whoever they may be -- should have the right to look at it. But I hope to God they don't want to start the process all over again."

Dannelly said that "to put it mildly, I am deeply, deeply disappointed" in the decision. "The plan is not a perfect plan. We still had a ways to go to resolve their concerns, but we were working on that. What happened this morning was a total disservice to all the people who spent many hours working on the plan. It should have been passed."

County Planning Director Philip J. Rovang, who shepherded the plan through three years of contentious debate, offered a terse reaction.

"We've got guidance," he said. "Do no more work on the master plan till after the election and the new County Commissioners give us direction on how they wish to proceed."

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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