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Commissioners knock Kinnaird
 off Planning and Zoning

Opposition to strategic plan cited by one elected official

Jeremy Hauck

Thurmont residents who think they can plan for the town's future have a better chance to do now that that the Planning and Zoning Commission has two openings since the forced departure of member John Kinnaird last week.

The seven-member commission has two vacancies. They can be filled by appointment by Thurmont's mayor, with approval from the Thurmont Board of Commissioners.

Thurmont commissioners on Feb. 9 voted 3-2 not to accept John Kinnaird's application for a second term on the town's Planning and Zoning Commission.

Until last week, Kinnaird served as the commission's chairman after John Ford, the previous chairman, resigned in January 2007.

Commissioners Robert E. Lookingbill, Glenn D. Muth and Ronald A. Terpko voted against reappointing Kinnaird, while Mayor Martin A. Burns and Commissioner Wayne A. Hooper voted for Kinnaird.

"There was no discussion or anything; they just stuck their hands up and voted me off," Kinnaird said Friday. "I think it was predetermined."

In his comments at the end of the nearly two-and-a-half hour meeting, Burns called the board's vote to remove Kinnaird a "travesty to this town," and asked commissioners to explain their votes.

"I would ask them to man up and tell the public why this dedicated servant isn't worthy to serve, as dedicated as you've been by going to many meetings on your own, representing this town better than anyone could. In the capacity as chairman, you have kept us informed and done nothing but a professional, outstanding job for the Town of Thurmont. I apologize to you, sir, for what happened here tonight," Burns said. "Everybody [who] knows and watched tonight, knows this was an orchestrated, planned thing that was going to happen. I don't like it; it's legal, it's within the regulations, but I don't have to sit here and be quiet about it."

Muth said last that his vote against Kinnaird was driven by Kinnaird's opposition to a strategic plan for Thurmont. "During my campaign, one of the things I talked about was a strategic plan," Muth said. "John was strongly against" a strategic plan.

Muth said that the Planning and Zoning Commission chairman must be on board for such a plan to move forward.

A strategic plan, Muth said, is "about where the town thinks it should go."

The Planning and Zoning Commission is drawing to an end of a protracted update process on the Thurmont Master Plan. A comprehensive review of the town's zoning designations comes next.

"I'm not satisfied that I'm not going to be able to see those through," Kinnaird said. "I would have preferred to see them to their finish."

Kinnaird, who said he understood that his service on the Planning and Zoning Commission was subject to the commissioners' approval, joined the commission in 2004. His term and the term of fellow planning commissioner Randy Cubbedge came to an end in late 2008. The commissioners reappointed Cubbedge, but not Kinnaird.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has five of its seven seats filled. The commission had a vacant chair going into Monday's meeting; only Cubbedge and Kinnaird applied for membership.

Planning and Zoning commissioners serve unpaid, five-year terms. The commission meets on the fourth Thursday of each month.

Kinnaird, a fifth-generation monument maker who came to Thurmont from Scotland with his family in 1959, manages Thurmont's town Web site and archives town activities. He serves as secretary for the Thurmont Economic Development Committee.

Lookingbill said his vote against Kinnaird was prompted by his desire to "get some fresh looks" at planning issues. "John is involved in too much," Lookingbill said.

Former chairman John Ford cited a dismissive position on the part of Thurmont commissioners toward the town's master plan when he quit in 2007.

The town, at the time, was involved in a heated debate about whether or not it should approve the annexation —and development — of the Myers Farm, a large dairy farm north of Thurmont. Ford opposed the annexation, which town commissioners voted down months later.

Applications for the office can be turned in at Thurmont town hall, 10 Frederick Road, Thurmont.

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