ELKTON - During a moment of suspense, all eyes in the crowded hearing room turned to Mark H. Guns, the young member of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners.
The 43-year-old lawmaker held the deciding vote on one of the hottest issues in the county in recent years: a bill that would impose a six-month moratorium on housing construction in about 63 percent of the county.
The four other members of the board were evenly divided on the legislation proposed by Commissioner William C. Manlove with hopes of preventing an onslaught of new development projects making their way into the system as the county prepares to review its long-term growth plan.
At their meeting Tuesday evening the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of holding a public hearing on Manlove's proposal. A no vote would have been immediate death for the bill.
Voting in favor of the bill were Manlove, Guns and Commissioner Phyllis Kilby. Opposed to the measure were Commission President Nelson K. Bolender and Commissioner Harry A. Hepbron.
A date for the public hearing has not been scheduled. Dwight Thomey, an attorney representing the Board of Commissioners, said it may take a month or two to set up the meeting.
Guns said he was "tugged both ways" on the issue. "During my campaign, I was asked if I would support a building moratorium. I said, `No. I would not want to shut an industry down.'"
Guns said he voted in favor of the legislation because of the great number of phone calls and e-mails from voters in the county. "They were not just saying they were for or against it, he said. "They had specific reasons whey they were for it or against it."
He continued: "I wanted the public meeting so that we could gather more data for citizens of the county. Citizens should know how many subdivisions are in the system now."
Guns said both sides need more information to understand the impact of a moratorium on the county.
Kilby offered similar reason for supporting the proposal. "Our role is not to go forward with the process until we have heard from all the citizens of the county," she said. "We owe it to the public to have a public hearing."
Speaking in opposition to the bill, Hepbron said: "The facts do not justify a moratorium."
According to his numbers, 58 percent of the building lots formed since 1996 were in county- designated growth areas.
Over the same period, he said, 63 percent of the building permits were issued in designated growth areas, and three lots were created south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal last year.
Bolender said the county's newly appointed 11-member comprehensive review committee should determine if any adjustment needs to be made in policy related to housing construction.
At the end of the commissioners' meeting, Louis DeAngelis, of Rising Sun, approached the dais and thanked Manlove, Kilby and Guns for their votes.
Manlove said he was a bit surprised by the vote. "I didn't know how it would go," he said. "I didn't put any pressure on anybody."
He expressed his concern that housing development in the county is leading to the demise of farms, while putting a stress on the county's roads, schools, water system and emergency services.
Meadows submits resume to solicitor's office in Baltimore
Harford County Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows, 42, the center of a criminal misconduct investigation by the state prosecutor, may be resigning in the coming weeks and has submitted a resume to the Baltimore city solicitor's office.
Meadows was named this year in a complaint by a longtime female employee of the Sheriff's Office. State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli was poised to present his investigation to a county grand jury Tuesday, but that proceeding was postponed.
City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said Meadows was "absolutely not" being considered for a position in the office.
"I've never met him," Zollicoffer said. "I've never interviewed him. Unfortunately, all I know about him is what I read in the headlines."
Development rights bill draws crowd at hearing
The Harford County Council's public hearing on a bill to abolish a 20-year-old law that allows farmers to transfer development rights to adjoining properties drew an emotional crowd of about 80 people Tuesday night, sparking a decision to postpone any amendment motions until April 15.
More than a dozen people spoke on the bill. Many laid the fault on a lack of designated development areas.
Farmer Ed Snodgrass of Street echoed the opinions of many when he said he believes the county has a transfer development rights law, but no program to guide or regulate the transfers.
"A program would imply some long-term planning and decision-making," he said.
Bel Air man convicted in child abuse case
A Bel Air man was found guilty Tuesday in Circuit Court of child sexual abuse and could receive up to 15 years in prison, the state's attorney's office said.