Town's request for notice irks Dell

`Don't get in my pond,' he tells Sykesville

January 30, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A day after a cordial meeting between Sykesville and Carroll County's elected leaders, Commissioner Donald I. Dell brought the town and county's simmering feud to a boil.

Town leaders had asked the commissioners Monday night for more information about proposed county projects and zoning changes before they occurred, a move that would require expanding the agreement that governs relations between Carroll's eight municipalities and the county. At the time, Dell said nothing.

Turns out he was holding back.

"I just about bit off my tongue," he told county staff in a meeting yesterday. "I don't think we ought to commit to anything that is not in the town" agreement.

The county routinely advises the eight municipalities - Sykesville, Taneytown, Hampstead, Manchester, Westminster, Mount Airy, Union Bridge and New Windsor - of major projects or zoning changes within a mile of each town's borders.

But Sykesville also wants information on any countywide issues that might affect the town.

Sykesville has been "blindsided in the past by the county," Town Council President Michael Burgoyne said yesterday.

He noted the county's effort to build a road to the proposed Piney Run Lake water treatment plant when it lacks state approval for the $15 million project, the county's contentious new zoning ordinance that could swallow up much of the farmland to the west of Sykesville and construction of a cell tower less than a mile from town limits several years ago.

"With zoning and other issues, it is getting really dicey out there and we need to know what the county is planning," Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said yesterday. "We are taxpayers. We live in the county. Why wouldn't we want to be notified of what is happening?"

But Dell said: "The way I see it, you don't get in my pond, and we don't get in yours. The towns do things all the time without telling the county what they're up to - look at the mess we're in over the road for Piney Run. I don't see why we should have to send them notification every time we do something.

"When are the towns going to stop thinking they run the county?" Dell asked.

Dell is still smarting from Sykesville's reluctance to grant the county an easement for construction of the road and pipeline to the proposed plant at Piney Run Lake, town officials said. The council did not include the plant on the meeting agenda Monday night.

"We did not refuse to give the county an easement," said Herman. "We said we would discuss the issue when the county gets its [state] building permit for the plant. Why spend taxpayers' money building a road without the appropriate permit?"

The Maryland Department of the Environment has said the proposed Piney Run plant is inconsistent with Carroll's master plan for water and has refused to issue a construction permit for the project.

"There was a lot of stuff that we could have discussed [Monday night], but it would be pointless," said Herman. "I could not have imagined a more cordial meeting. Now, even an issue like this is blown out of proportion."

Burgoyne added, "By communicating with each other, we could avoid disputes. Good communication beforehand tends to encourage compromise."

Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols said: "I wish Commissioner Dell had been more upfront with his comments rather than have us learn about it through the newspaper. "What the county does or doesn't do directly affects the towns," Nichols said. "It is hard to stay out of his pond when it is providing water for Sykesville. We will have mandatory water restrictions this summer based on the way he is managing our pond."

Dell said he did not speak to the council Monday night, fearing his comments "would destroy what was a nice meeting."

Herman said he was surprised at Dell's comments yesterday.

"The town has always tried and will continue to try to foster a good relationship with the county," Herman said. "We want to work with the county, but only when the county is proceeding with its own laws."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said at the meeting Monday night that she has no problem with reviewing the town-county agreement. She suggested the commissioners discuss the pact with the mayors at their next quarterly meeting in March.

"We are willing to sit down with the towns and work on possible changes," Gouge said. "It would take work to redo the agreement and all the towns would have to be involved."

"Unless we can have more meaningful dialogue, it will be difficult to resolve issues," said Herman. "All we are asking is to be informed. Where is the problem in that?"

Sun staff writer Brenda J. Buote contributed to this article.

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