Decision to stall plan criticized 'Lack of confidence' shown, says mayor

September 04, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Brenda J. Buote and James M. Coram contributed to this article.

Shelving for two months a new master plan to guide Carroll's growth might have been politically expedient for two County Commissioners seeking re-election, but it could backfire.

Deferring a vote on the master plan "shows a lack of confidence in the people that have worked on this for the past several years, including their own staff," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. "It could be perceived as a lack of leadership. It could come to hurt them in the election."

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates voted Wednesday to table any decision on the plan until after the November election. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who is running for the House of Delegates, dissented.

"We are coming to the end of an administration," Dell said, explaining his vote. "If we get halfway done [considering the plan] and are then voted out, they would have to start all over."

Dell said he has many problems with the proposal and would probably send it back to the planning commission for revisions. Time was too short to consider the plan, Yates said.

"They had three years to work on it and we have a few months," Yates said. "I see no harm in waiting. The work is done and the people's input is there."

The plan, a blueprint for growth into the 21st century, is the result of months of work by volunteer groups and the county planning commission.

Former planning commission chairwoman Robin Bartlett Frazier,

a commission candidate, said she would have voted on it now.

"The way this master plan is set up, it controls the next five sets of commissioners," she said. "It's been around a long time. If you know what was in it, you wouldn't want to be dragging it out."

The plan 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.

"We devoted a lot of time to this," said Deborah L. Ridgely, vice chairwoman for the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission and formerly a volunteer committee member. "It was almost like a second job. We spent weeks going over the plan section by section."

David P. O'Callaghan, president of Finksburg Planning Area Council, a citizens group concerned about development in the Finksburg area, asked: "Is this is a signal that the commissioners won't be tackling any tough issues during the time they have left to serve?"

Gene Edwards, a member of Freedom Area Citizens Council, which advocates good growth in South Carroll, the county's most populous area, called the commissioners' decision specious.

"I would have preferred that they had shown leadership and signed off," said Edwards. "If they are re-elected, what will be their excuse?"

The existing master plan dates to 1964. In the three decades since it was written, the county population has more than doubled to nearly 150,000. Growth has strained schools, roads, services and utilities.

Nearly three years ago, four volunteer committees began working on revisions. Their recommendations went to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this year.

Nimrod Davis, vice chairman of the Freedom group and a member of the citizens advisory group for the master plan, said the 2-1 vote to table fits a pattern of indecision.

"We have had four years of indecision unless it benefited them politically," Davis said. "These officials are not working for the county. They are working for themselves, their own re-election."

In his 1994 door-to-door campaign, Yates promised growth controls. His campaign this year stresses "promises kept." Dell is running on a "proven leadership" platform.

"The commissioners are not meeting their obligations and they are afraid to have their actions judged by voters," said Kenneth Plante, Freedom council member. "The old plan is so old it has whiskers. It is not helping to defer."

Carolyn Fairbank and M. Patricia Holbert, two of the 19 County Commission candidates, said Yates and Dell were right to leave approval to the next board.

"A lot of new outcomes could happen with a brand new set of commissioners if the master plan were approved now," said Fairbank, chairwoman of the Freedom council who is running as an independent. "They may say they don't want to be held accountable" for a master plan they didn't approve.

"There are real problems with this master plan and a new board should be accountable for whether to accept it," she said.

Westminster Republican M. Patricia Holbert, who served as a member of the master plan land-use work team, said she too prefers that the decision be left to the next board.

"They will have to live with the decision and work things out with the planning commission," she said.

Ed Primoff, founder of the Carroll Landowners Association, applauded the commissioners' decision.

"It took great integrity to table," he said.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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