Carroll Co. rezonings could be revisited

Commissioners will meet today to consider reversal of 9 changes from 2002

January 28, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

In a move that some landowners say amounts to a doublecross, the Carroll commissioners will consider today reversing a series of zoning changes approved by their predecessors.

The property owners are angry because they waited two years to secure permission for the rezonings, which would open nine parcels around the county to commercial and industrial use, only to watch a new Board of Commissioners call the changes into question.

The commissioners said their lame-duck predecessors never should have voted on the rezonings, but that logic has done little to soothe the landowners, who say they deserve a straight answer from their government.

"I don't see how they can vote one way and then come back and take it away from us," Rockwood Lee, whose 1-acre property along Liberty Road is among the nine in question, said yesterday. "It's an interesting precedent that they would be setting because I don't think things can be done that way."

In October, then-Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier approved a list of rezonings that had been pending for more than two years. Nine rezonings disregarded recommendations from the planning commission.

When Dean L. Minnich and Perry L. Jones replaced Dell and Frazier a few weeks later, they and incumbent Julia Walsh Gouge embarked on a blitz of decisions that would negate the Dell and Frazier actions, including an announcement that they would reconsider the nine rezonings.

Owners of the properties and their attorneys complained at a hearing Jan. 15, telling the commissioners they were acting unfairly, irresponsibly and possibly illegally. The rezoning was executed properly, they said.

"It was a very open process in which everybody had a say, and then in the end, some people got it and some people didn't," said attorney Clark Shaffer, who represents property owner James D. Kibler. "To come back after an election and take it away from them is not fair."

Minnich and Jones say they haven't reached a decision on the properties' fates. Both said Dell and Frazier acted hastily in approving the rezonings. But both said they also would rather not create uncertainty in the lives of Carroll property owners.

"These were bad zonings that never should have gone through," Minnich said. "But it's possible that by coming in and reconsidering them, we're setting a precedent we don't want to be setting. We need to act very cautiously because two bads don't make a good."

Gouge has been recovering from shoulder surgery and was unavailable for comment on the rezonings.

The nine properties, ranging in size from less than an acre to 14 acres, are scattered. In most cases, they would change from agricultural or conservation to industrial classifications that would allow development.

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