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Town to establish formal terms for
 town commissions

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News-Post

(2/04) People appointed to the town’s planning and zoning commission or its board of appeals have been similar to Supreme Court justices for years. "Once you’re on there, you’re on it ‘til you die," Burgess Donald Trimmer said, only half-jokingly.

Most communities appoint planning commission or appeals board members for specific terms, and they often re-appoint the person as that term is about to expire. But in Woodsboro, terms have been forgotten for years, and the citizens who volunteer have served the town until they’ve resigned or died. Woodsboro’s board of commissioners have decided that practice has to change. A letter was sent to the citizen appointees, four with planning and zoning and three with the board of appeals, to learn if they want to continue to serve the town. The commissioners plan to establish terms for everyone at their February meeting. What actions are required will be discussed at a town workshop Monday.

"That’s the way we’ve been operating, which is not kosher," the burgess said. "They should be re-appointed for another three- or five-year term whenever their term comes up. We’re going to try to establish terms for them."

Hartwood Cornell has been on the planning panel so long he doesn’t know when he started. He guessed it was 1981, and the only interruption was two years in the mid-80s when he served as the town’s burgess.

The planning commission has been fairly stable. The institutional knowledge gathered by longtime members is valuable, Mr. Cornell said, and each member tends to focus on different things when matters are brought to the commission.

"Everybody seems to be looking at something a little different from each other, which really adds to what we’re after in the end. What one person doesn’t realize, the next one often does," he said.

Because Woodsboro is a small town, agendas don’t tend to be packed and meetings usually aren’t high-pressure. The board of appeals meets irregularly and may go a year without meeting, Mr. Trimmer said. The planning commission meets on a monthly schedule, but Mr. Cornell recalled years when it might have met only six times.

Mr. Trimmer and Mr. Cornell disagreed somewhat on how much pressure for growth the town will feel over the next five to 10 years.

A number of very small subdivision requests and an annexation proposal will occupy the town in the next five years, the burgess predicted.

Mr. Cornell, the planning commission’s chairman, said the town’s location and its residents’ opposition to aggressive expansion likely will inhibit growth.

"I don’t envision us being too much larger than we are now, I really don’t," Mr. Cornell said. "But you never can tell."

If growth comes, who will deal with it? Apparently the same people who are coping with this prospect now.

The deadline for people to notify the town they wanted off one of the panels was Friday. A short time before the town office closed Friday, no resignations had been submitted.

Mr. Trimmer viewed the lack of resignations as positive for Woodsboro. "I think we’re very fortunate to have the people to serve on the two boards that we have," the burgess said. "They’re all knowledgeable of planning and zoning rules and regulations, they all work together, and I don’t know what more you could ask for."

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