Commissioner upset over rejection of board chairman's reappointment Brown scolds colleagues after vote on Schumacher

October 08, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown chastised his colleagues yesterday for voting against the reappointment of James L. Schumacher as chairman of the county Board of Zoning Appeals.

In a closed session last month, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates opposed the appointment. Brown said their action was based on one issue: Schumacher cast the tie-breaking vote in a 2-1 zoning board ruling that denied Ed Primoff's application for unlimited flights at a private airstrip in Woodbine.

"[Dell's and Yates'] decision was based on the airport and nothing else," Brown said. "To decide on a single issue is unsettling. The man should have been judged on the entirety of his record."

Primoff, founder of the Carroll Landowners Association, has sued the county, taking his petition for unlimited flights to Carroll Circuit Court. He has supported property rights candidates in the race for county commissioner.

Dell, who is running for a third term as commissioner, refused to comment on the Schumacher nomination. Yates, who recently lost his bid for re-election, said Schumacher exercised poor judgment on the airstrip at the April meeting.

The commissioners offered Schumacher the position of alternate the three-member board, a one-year term that Schumacher said yesterday he will accept.

Schumacher, who has worked as a county planner and as the Sykesville town manager, is a self-employed planning consultant. completed his first three-year term on the zoning board this month after serving two of those years as chairman.

"I found him to be intelligent, fair-minded and open to public input," said Brown, who appointed Schumacher to the board in 1995. "I was quite proud that I nominated him in the first place."

Schumacher said he was notified of the commissioners' action in a letter dated Sept. 28 and left at the zoning board office.

"I was surprised that I was not reappointed," said Schumacher. "There was no official reason, but I would assume it had to do with my voting record."

Yates said the airstrip decision alone was not egregious enough to throw Schumacher off the board. But, he added, "The county does not limit flights. Why should only one resident have a restriction on the number of flights?"

The case awaits a hearing in Circuit Court. Zoning board member Hoby Wolf, who cast the only vote in favor of unlimited flights -- Karl Reichlin voted no -- contends the county cannot win the case.

"The county cannot regulate airways," said Wolf, who also owns a private airport. "That is the job of the federal aviation agency."

Wolf contends Schumacher did not do the research required to make an informed decision.

"The chairman of any board has to take the pressure that comes with a decision that may be wrong," said Wolf. "He must be alert to what the law is. It is up to him to research the law."

Yates said the decision will "shuffle the board around to get new ideas and thoughts."

"We are just giving someone else a chance," said Yates. "We didn't want to lose Schumacher's expertise."

Ronald Hoff, the alternate, will take a seat on the board. No decision has been reached on who will serve as chairman.

Members are paid $90 per session, usually three a month. The chairman often is paid for four sessions, because he frequently deals with a day's worth of administrative duties.

The board worked well together, but the members frequently clashed philosophically on how property should be zoned, said Wolf.

["Schumacher's] and my philosophy are quite different, and that may be because of his background in planning," said Wolf. "He is a planner who believes in guiding growth. I believe in a [hands-off] government."

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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