Six vie for 3 council seats

Development and conservation focus of Westminster races

Election 2007

May 06, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Although Westminster recently lifted a six-month building moratorium caused by a water deficit, development issues as well as calls for greater conservation efforts are central to the City Council campaigns under way in the Carroll County seat.

Six candidates, including three incumbents, are vying for three seats on the five-member council May 14. Incumbents Suzanne P. Albert, Gregory Pecoraro and Robert Wack face challengers Charles W. Cull, William Gill and Kenneth Warren.

Some stalled residential developments are moving forward, but since the city's new growth and water allocation policies are still evolving, Albert, Pecoraro and Wack said their experience could help see Westminster through this transitional period.

Wack and Pecoraro head up a growth and annexation task force to help chart future plans for the city.

"The rules have changed on how development is going to proceed from here on out," said Wack, who is running his second council campaign. "We're never going back to the way things were before. Every project is going to receive a lot more scrutiny."

Among the challengers, Gill, 36, emphasizes his interest in environmental policies. A guidance counselor at an alternative school in Frederick County, Gill said he would create incentives to encourage downtown businesses to recycle and conserve water.

Bringing in more "green" businesses to fill downtown vacancies could also further Main Street revitalization efforts, Gill said.

Improving public safety, creating more affordable housing and tackling the water issue are the priorities of Cull's campaign.

A real estate agent and broker, Cull, 67, said more work force housing will spur economic development by bringing in more workers to live in the area. Cull said he would raise the pay scales for Westminster police and emergency medical technicians to keep attracting solid candidates.

Going into the election, Cull said "the apathy of the electorate" concerned him, as only 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the last Sykesville Town Council election.

"It used to be a real privilege to vote, and everybody did it," he said.

The only female candidate, Albert, is a retired registered nurse and hospice case manager who has served on the council since 1995. Albert, 74, said she has long-supported calls for a city audit. She said she believes that Westminster's new financial auditing software should assuage residents' concerns.

Curbing drug activity on some downtown streets and restoring vibrancy on Main Street are Albert's other concerns. She said she would promote service days to clean up trash cluttering city alleys and streets.

Vice president of regional affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and former chief of staff to the Baltimore County executive, Pecoraro, 48, has served on the council for all but two years since 1994. With the annexation task force, Pecoraro said he and Wack are looking at how Westminster and the surrounding area will develop in future years.

"We've been very careful in the city, but in years past, the county just let things sort of happen around us," Pecoraro said, adding that the council now enjoys a cooperative relationship with the county commissioners.

A specific plan for downtown revitalization accompanied by more affordable housing is central to Pecoraro's campaign. He said redeveloping city-owned parking lots with shops along the Route 27 corridor down from Route 140 could create a gateway to make Main Street more of a destination "that brings people to live and work downtown."

Part of the city's water capacity is being reserved for such mixed-use development, Pecoraro said.

Financial accountability and technological innovation to promote economic development are other concerns for Wack, 45, the director of pediatrics at Carroll Hospital Center and a founder of Westminster's nonprofit Access Carroll clinic for uninsured and under-insured patients.

The city's department heads will start receiving monthly expense reports once the financial auditing software is fully implemented July 1, Wack said.

He is also in charge of Westminster's proposal, through the Cable Regulatory Commission, to create free wireless Internet hot spot zones downtown and out at the business parks near the Carroll County airport.

Repeated attempts to reach Warren, the sixth candidate, were unsuccessful.

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