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Westminster councilman to run for re-election


Stephen R. Chapin Sr. says he has accomplished three of the four goals he set when he ran for the Westminster City Council in 1991. The councilman is running again to continue work on the fourth.

The 53-year-old Court Street resident, who co-owns and manages a Westminster apartment complex, became the fifth candidate last week for the three council seats open in the May 8 city election.

He joins Rebecca A. Orenstein, an incumbent also seeking a second term; L. Gregory Pecoraro, appointed in November to fill a council vacancy; Suzanne W. Albert, a state health department nurse consultant and administrator; and Robert D. Ballinger, a district executive with the Boy Scouts of America.

Mr. Chapin said his three accomplished goals are a property tax reduction, an end to the open bickering between then-Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and the 1991 council, and building permit limits that control the pace of residential growth so that city services such as water and sewerage can keep pace.

The goal he wants to keep working toward is improving Westminster's economic vitality.

Mr. Chapin declined to commit himself on whether the city government should consider buying and marketing the Farmers Supply Co. property at Liberty and East Green streets. The acre site has been on the market since 1989 and was identified in a consultant's study last year as a key property in downtown commercial development.

"I'd have to really look at that extremely carefully," he said. "I'd be concerned about the tax rate going up and [the city] being in a business it shouldn't be in. That would be tough."

The candidate declined to say whether he would support a downtown historic district recommended by the marketing consultants to preserve Westminster's charm.

"I would be open-minded, but I'm a big personal property rights person," he said.

Mr. Chapin's votes on spending reflect his emphasis on supporting business. He balked at spending $87,000 for an elevator to make the police headquarters accessible to the disabled in 1993 but pressured the council in 1994 to approve $50,000 for the Greater Westminster Development Corp. before council members started budget deliberations. Mr. Chapin co-founded the corporation, which tries to retain and lure businesses, in 1993.

The councilman said he didn't oppose making the police building accessible but felt that a modified chair lift would be cheaper than an elevator. City police moved into their new headquarters, a renovated former auto parts store on Locust Street, in September 1993. It has an elevator.

Mr. Chapin's business interests conflicted with his government role in 1993, when he and his son bought Ye Village Green, a Westminster apartment complex where five tenants received federal housing aid. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations bar local elected officials from receiving HUD payments.

To avoid forcing the tenants to move, the agency and Mr. Chapin compromised with an agreement that the councilman would not vote on issues that would have a direct financial impact on him or his family.

Mr. Chapin opposed a 1993 proposal to limit council members to two consecutive four-year terms but is setting his own limit at two terms. If he is elected this year, he said, he will not run again in 1999.

His wife, Nancy Chapin, is principal of Carrolltowne Elementary School.

They have three adult children, Stephen Jr., a management consultant; John, who is seeking a master's degree in business administration from the University of Virginia; and Wendy, a cook at Westminster Nursing Home.

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