Rule limiting talk on zoning is challenged


A county government attorney and Westminster resident wants the City Council to repeal a law that bars council members from talking privately with citizens about pending zoning cases.

County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr., who opposed the city's recent historic district zoning, asked to change the law after he was barred from speaking at an Oct. 5 council meeting.

The council discussed historic districts at the meeting with Michael Day, Maryland Historic Trust chief of planning and educational outreach.

The council is scheduled to discuss Mr. Thompson's request at its meeting tomorrow night. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Westminster fire hall.

"Although [Mr. Day] was allowed to misrepresent the law regarding historic districts, you advised me that because I am a citizen of Westminster I could not attempt to set the record straight. The Westminster code should not be written in such a way to stifle opposing speech," Mr. Thompson wrote.

The county attorney could not be reached for comment at his office or home Friday.

City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. had earlier warned council members not to talk to the press or individual citizens about the nTC historic district in the weeks between the closing of the public record in late August and the council vote Oct. 12.

However, he allowed Mr. Thompson to speak against the district at a council meeting after the public record was closed. The council voted Oct. 12 to create historic zoning as a category but left it to property owners to decide whether they want to apply for inclusion in the district.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said Friday that he will wait to hear the city attorney's comments before he forms an opinion on whether the zoning law should be changed.

Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein said she found the law "very confusing and difficult, not to be able to talk to people." She also said she wants to learn more about the law before deciding how to vote on Mr. Thompson's proposal.

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