Walsh, Frazier postpone vote on size of planning commission

Loss of two positions concerns activists

February 23, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

To the dismay of slow-growth advocates, the county commissioners might soon slash the number of planning commission members from seven to five, reversing a past effort to better scrutinize residential development.

Two vacancies on the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission have prompted the county commissioners to consider trimming the panel. Grant S. Dannelly ended his term Thursday. Thomas G. Hiltz resigned in the fall. Both live in South Carroll and were strong proponents of slowing the pace of residential development, particularly in the Freedom Area.

The commissioners were expected to take action on the proposal yesterday, but Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier tabled the matter because Commissioner Donald I. Dell was unable to attend the meeting.

"The reason they're [making this change] is because they don't want to put any people on the panel from the southern part of the county," said Nimrod Davis, acting chairman of Freedom Area Citizens Council, an unofficial liaison between the community and county government. "I think they should have seven members, and I think they should pull them from all parts of the county."

Dell and Frazier have said they believe five members would be more effective than seven. Gouge has said she opposes trimming the panel.

"My fear is that the planning commission won't be as representative as people would like it to be," Gouge said.

Donald E. Hoffman, president of Finksburg Planning Area Council, another community liaison group, said he found it regrettable that the panel might not have the additional input of two more members.

"I don't believe the input from seven members makes the commission any less effective," Hoffman said. "In fact, I think the larger number is more effective because there's a greater flow of ideas."

For many years, the planning panel had five members.

Former Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates expanded the planning commission in 1995 to include Hiltz, a slow-growth advocate from Woodbine, and David T. Duree of New Windsor.

Brown and Yates approved their appointments in hopes they would make the panel more responsive to residents who want growth to be managed better.

During the past decade, much of the growth has been directed to the Freedom Area, which encompasses Eldersburg and Sykesville. Today, South Carroll is the county's most populous area with more than 28,000 residents -- nearly double the number of people who lived there in 1990.

Dell, who is serving his third term, opposed expanding the panel. He is the commissioners' representative on the planning panel, a position he also held during his first term.

"He's wanted this since Dick Yates and I changed it," Brown said yesterday. "Carroll County is controlled by a group of far-right wing Republicans who see broadening public input as a threat to their power. That type of thinking led to the American Revolution, so I trust there is hope yet for Carroll County."

To change the number of seats on the planning panel, the commissioners would have to pass an amendment to a county zoning law. The change could be made without a public hearing and would be effective immediately.

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