Carroll Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy made an apparent U-turn yesterday when he said he opposed extending Interstate 795 through the county.
In February, he said he liked the idea of extending the highway. "I favor it completely. It's innovative," he said.
His about-face surprised Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who introduced the idea and said he still supports it.
Mr. Lippy released a letter yesterday afternoon outlining his thoughts on the issue. He said he wrote the letter to respond to about 20 residents who have asked him about the highway extension.
"Elmer had originally said it was a good idea," Mr. Dell said. "I'm a little surprised to see him writing a letter now."
Mr. Dell has proposed extending I-795 roughly parallel to Route 140 from Baltimore County through Carroll to connect with Route 15 in Pennsylvania.
The commissioner links the road extension to building a waste-to-energy plant at the Northern Landfill and industrializing the Finksburg-Westminster corridor along Route 140.
"Maybe I appeared too friendly to Donald's ideas. But I still think it shouldn't be a crime to have an idea," Mr. Lippy said.
Mr. Lippy gave Mr. Dell a copy of his letter after he had given the letter to reporters.
"I still believe in it," Mr. Dell said of his plan. "I think basically there is a lot of support around the county for waste-to-energy and extending 795."
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge opposes the I-795 extension because Dell's plan would eliminate the Route 30 bypass.
"My opinion has been the same all along. The bypass for Hampstead and Manchester is urgently needed," she said.
The proposed I-795 extension has too many unanswered questions, such as the cost, the number of families who would be displaced and its effect on the environment, she said.
Mr. Dell has said his proposal is just an idea. In April, he said he would ask the board of commissioners to vote on the idea in the fall. Yesterday, he said "maybe it [the vote] is a moot idea."
A decision about the road may depend on what the county's Waste-to-Energy Committee recommends, he added. A citizens' committee is studying the feasibility of building an incinerator to burn county trash in a way that would generate electricity.
The committee plans to make a recommendation in June 1994.
If the committee recommends that an incinerator be built at Hoods Mill Landfill in South Carroll rather than at Northern Landfill in Reese, for example, then an I-795 extension might not be needed, Mr. Dell said.
A group of Finksburg-area residents whose properties would be affected by an extended I-795 have organized the Carroll County Civic Association to fight Mr. Dell's plan.
Association leader Mary Lewis said yesterday that she was pleased to hear that Mr. Lippy opposes the road extension.
"I think that's fine. I think it's an outdated idea to have a big highway rushing through the county like that," she said.
Asked if he received pressure from the public to change his mind, Mr. Lippy said he heard from about 20 constituents, a number he said he considered "a lot" on one issue.
Mr. Lippy said he would like to see the Route 30 bypass built instead and would like light-rail lines extended through Carroll into Pennsylvania. The federal government does not want to build any new highways, he said. "The ultimate solution to this problem, which is vexing now and will only get worse, must involve mass transportation of some sort," he wrote in his letter.
Mr. Lippy said he suggested extending light rail through Carroll during a 1991 meeting of the Hanover Pike Task Force, a group studying traffic problems on Route 30.
"Seriously," he continued in the letter, "another perfectly valid option would be to do nothing. If people are willing to put up with the annoyance of gridlock and increased travel time in order to preserve their privacy, then that is the way to go." He also said he opposes concentrating industrial growth in the Finksburg area "for conservation and environmental reasons." A decision on the incinerator should wait until the citizens committee finishes its study, he said.