Planning member is investigated

Dannelly supported rerouting Ridge Road through his property

Conflict of interest?

He failed to disclose he owned parcel in Freedom since 1976

September 08, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County attorney's office is investigating a planning commission member for failing to disclose he owned a piece of South Carroll property that lies in the path of a proposed road he supported as a commission member.

Grant S. Dannelly, who has served on the planning commission since 1995, and his wife are one-third owners of a .27-acre parcel at the north end of Marriottsville Road No. 2, just south of its intersection with Ridge Road in the county's Freedom Area.

While updating the comprehensive plan for the Freedom Area this year, Dannelly supported keeping in the plan a proposal first made in 1977 to relocate Ridge Road. The relocation would connect Ridge Road to Marriottsville Road No. 2 farther south.

Plans call for the relocated road to cross directly through Dannelly's property, a parcel the county would need to buy if it wants the road relocated.

Dannelly did not suggest a potential conflict of interest to members of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission, and in July was one of four members who voted in favor of the plan, which included the Ridge Road relocation.

"In retrospect, I should have said something. I did not say anything because I never thought of it," Dannelly said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Dannelly said he and his neighbors bought the property in 1976 for $750 to block a dense housing development proposed off Marriottsville Road at the time.

Dannelly defends his support of the Ridge Road relocation, saying it is one of a number of road projects that would help traffic flow in the Freedom Area, the county's most populated region.

The county commissioners have asked the county attorney's office to investigate the potential conflict of interest. The matter will then be passed to the three-member county ethics commission.

"It was brought to our attention there could be a possible conflict and we sent it to our attorney's office to handle. It's not something the commissioners deal with," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

According to the county's ethics laws, county officials are not allowed to participate on behalf of the county in any matter in which they have a direct financial interest. If asked to act on an issue, county officials are required to disclose potential conflicts. Violators can be subject to disciplinary action and subject to fines up to $500.

Dannelly said he didn't violate the ordinance.

"I don't think I did. Someone else may think I did. If I did anything wrong, it was a pure and simple oversight," he said.

According to county land records, Dannelly and his wife, Beverly, purchased the property on May 13, 1976, with two other couples -- Robert C. and Betty H. Cornwell and Charles F. and Mary C. Ritrivi.

Dannelly said they had hoped to stop a proposed dense development of single-family homes by purchasing a parcel crucial for access to the development.

"We did not want cluster housing," he said.

At the time they purchased the property, Dannelly was an alternate member of a citizens' advisory committee for the first Freedom Area Plan. Among nearly a dozen road improvements, the 1977 plan called for the Ridge Road relocation.

Dannelly said he does not remember being aware of the road proposal at the time he and his neighbors bought the property.

In the 1980s, a developer proposed building an 11-lot development called Stratton Woods that included the relocation of Ridge Road. The developer put $150,000 in escrow to guarantee the road's construction.

Stratton Woods was never built, nor was the road relocated. According to county development files, the county had trouble acquiring Dannelly's property so the road could be built.

In 1994, the county offered Dannelly and his neighbors $2,625 for the land, Dannelly said. But he and his neighbors chose not to accept it.

"Money was not an issue," he said. "They weren't serious about building the road, so we weren't serious about selling it."

At Freedom Plan workshop meetings this spring, Dannelly said the road should be included in the county's updated plan. According to audiotaped minutes of a workshop on March 23, Dannelly told the board about the money in escrow to build the road.

"The point is the money is there and that it should be used. It was specifically designated to build that spur. And it should be built," he said.

But Dannelly said he is not interested in money.

"I know for a fact that if and when they put that spur in, the county will reassess it at its current market value and make us an offer. If they are ready to put in the road, we'll seriously consider it."

Pub Date: 9/08/99

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