Mount Airy council candidates differ on growth


The four Town Council candidates in Mount Airy's May 1 election are divided on the issue of growth. In the nonpartisan election, two of the candidates support the town's recent annexation of a Frederick County farm, while two oppose the measure.

The candidates for two seats on the Mount Airy council are:

Chris DeColli

As the only incumbent candidate, DeColli has a four-year record. He stresses his family and community ties: soccer coach, PTA volunteer.

DeColli, 36, said he considers how the council votes will affect the welfare of his wife and three daughters.

In 2002, DeColli campaigned to uphold a moratorium on growth. But he voted for the February annexation of the Zeltman Farm, believing resources are now in place for more development.

He has expressed a strong aversion to raising taxes. Instead, he says, residential and commercial development could provide new funding. "I see growth paying for a new water source," he said at a candidates' forum Tuesday.

More retail businesses have opened under DeColli's Main Street revitalization efforts, and he hopes to bring other restaurants and big-box stores to town.

A new subdivision is not just a construction project but a community to DeColli, a former Air Force officer. "What brought you here?" he asked the audience at Tuesday's forum. "I don't see homes. I see people."

Gary Nelson

Nelson, a social studies teacher at North Carroll High School, said he wouldn't have considered bringing his class to a Mount Airy Town Council meeting this year.

"It hasn't at all been the kind of democratic government I teach about in the classroom," Nelson said. "They've been uncivil and not interested in public input."

Though Mount Airy has a master plan, Nelson said the town lacks a defined vision for its future. When Nelson, 53, and his family moved to town 13 years ago, they hoped to escape suburban sprawl.

The Zeltman annexation - which Nelson petitioned against - prompted him to run for a four-year term on the Town Council.

He was a Navy officer for 22 years.

Nelson hopes Mount Airy will preserve its surrounding farmland and watersheds. A developer shouldn't solely determine growth plans, Nelson said.

"We need to bring the developer in to achieve our vision, not have him tell us what our vision is," he said.

Jay Neuman

A high school in Mount Airy, more playing fields and reliable drinking water are some of the reasons Neuman said he supported the Zeltman annexation as a member of the town's planning commission.

"I don't think our kids should have to drive to another town to go to school," said Neuman, whose two children attend South Carroll High School.

New developments mean homes, neighbors and community to Neuman, 44. Too much industrial growth could turn Mount Airy into a Laurel or Germantown, he said.

"Growth is going to happen," he said. "The question is: Are you going to manage and control it? Or you can suffer it."

Tired of driving to Baltimore and Frederick stores, Neuman said he would like to see more retail stores and restaurants, creating a lively Main Street in Mount Airy.

His work in project management at the Goddard Space Flight Center has prepared him for office, Neuman said.

"It makes you always look at the big picture," he said.

John Woodhull

A retired satellite communications director, Woodhull has devoted himself to studying water options for Mount Airy with a scientist's intensity.

At a public hearing, he testified before Maryland Department of Environment officials that the South Branch of the Patapsco River was a polluted, unreliable water source.

Groundwater, Mount Airy's source of water, and its recharge zones should be protected, Woodhull said.

"It's a much less expensive option," he said. "That's what should have been explored first."

When Woodhull, 61, and his wife moved to Mount Airy in 1996, they were looking for the small town atmosphere of their previous home near New Windsor.

Woodhull circulated petitions against the Zeltman annexation because he felt the proper resources - water, sewer, classrooms - should first be in place. "Otherwise we wind up in a situation with overcrowded schools and ... water restrictions," he said. "But if we have it all in place first, it won't be a problem."

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