Zoning panel deadlocks in vote on Chick-Fil-A Council candidate Layman might have to break tie

October 23, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Community activist Kenneth Chamberlain has seen a ray of hope.

The president of the Ellicott Park Townhouse Condominium Section Two Association Inc. -- a group of 56 townhouse condominium units on Lee Farm Court in Ellicott City -- has been protesting the proposed construction of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant near his home, and last night at a Howard County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting the project hit its first major roadblock.

After a sometimes hot-tempered debate over whether to grant a special exception variance to the project, the board deadlocked on the matter with a 2-2 vote, putting the project in jeopardy.

Two board members -- Chairman Jerry L. Rushing and James Pfefferkorn -- voted for the exception. Two board members -- Donald Messenger and Robert Sharps -- voted against it, noting traffic congestion and safety concerns.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you are going to attract a tremendous amount of traffic," Sharps said.

"Our children are going to be in jeopardy," Messenger said. "If the facility gets in there, and some kid gets run over waiting for the school bus, I'm in the clear."

"I have three children," Rushing retorted. "I love children as much as anybody in here. Don't accuse me of not being sensitive to children's health and safety."

The tie puts the fifth board member, George L. Layman, in a tough position. He is running for a County Council seat in District 1, which covers Chamberlain's neighborhood.

The matter will be decided Thursday, when Layman will be at the Board of Appeals meeting to either cast a vote or decline.

"This puts me in a very tough, tough situation," Layman said. "I'm going to be asked to make a decision, and I don't want 120 people voting against me because I voted against them."

Layman said he has had several conversations with Chamberlain about the Chick-Fil-A, which might disqualify him from voting at all. In that case, he said, the special exception variance would not be granted because it would require a majority vote to pass.

"My position is, because I've had ex parte communications with the people involved in this case, I have to disclose that to the office of the law and then I'll make a decision," he said.

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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