Two added to planning board

Commissioners hope choices bring different views on growth to panel

Carroll County

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

The Carroll commissioners appointed two new members to the county planning commission yesterday, a move they hope will bring different views to a panel that has generally supported individual property rights over efforts at growth control.

The commissioners appointed Dennis Wertz, who has served on Hampstead's planning commission for the past nine years, and Michael Guerin, who ran unsuccessfully for the newly created South Carroll delegate seat last fall.

Neither is a familiar voice in the debate over the county's growth policies, but Wertz said yesterday that he supports the new commissioners' quest for tighter restrictions on growth.

"Certainly, I think we need to keep accommodating growth, but I think we want to accommodate it only in specific areas," said Wertz, 54, who has worked as a Baltimore County planner for 20 years.

Guerin, 33, a computer analyst from Sykesville, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He campaigned as a conservative Republican last fall in a race that rarely touched on growth issues.

The commissioners said they were not seeking appointees who completely share their ideas on growth but said they did want representatives from parts of the county most affected by the residential boom, South Carroll and Hampstead.

"We really felt we needed new thoughts and ideas in the process," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

Gouge and her colleagues, Perry L. Jones Jr. and Dean L. Minnich, won election last fall on promises that they would keep residential growth from overwhelming county schools, roads and water resources.

As part of their reform push, they announced during their first week in office that they would increase the planning commission from five to seven members. The idea met little opposition, from members of the panel or the public at large.

The commission plays several roles in county government, including advising the commissioners on land-use policy and reviewing plans for specific building projects.

The panel has more power than the commissioners in shaping and approving specific developments, so its meetings are often forums for heated debates about traffic, school capacity and environmental protection. Members serve five-year terms.

Jones said yesterday that Wertz's experience building up a town planning commission that had once been trod on by developers would serve him well on his new post.

"I think you bring a lot of experience and knowledge that is much needed," Jones told Wertz. "I think you'll be seeing a lot of the same things here that you saw in Hampstead."

Members of the county planning staff said they were impressed with the appointments.

"It will be nice to have an actual planner on the planning commission," said planning Director Steven C. Horn, referring to Wertz.

"It's a novel concept, isn't it?" added zoning administrator Neil Ridgely.

Ridgely, a slow-growth advocate who criticized the planning panel incessantly during his unsuccessful campaign for commissioner last year, said he was "pleased as punch" with the additions.

The commissioners also appointed two new members to the county's Board of Zoning Appeals, which rules on challenges to county land-use decisions and considers requests for exceptions to zoning laws.

The commissioners gave three-year terms to former state Del. Jacob M. "Jake" Yingling and to David H. Roush, the recently retired manager of the Lehigh Portland Cement plant in Union Bridge.

Yingling and Roush, both Westminster residents, have extensive experience with land-use laws.

Yingling represented the legislature on the Baltimore area's regional planning council, and Roush had to shepherd numerous changes at Lehigh through county and state permit hearings.

The changes increase the appeals board from three to five members.

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