Hampstead town officials approved last night the hiring of the Westminster firm of Bowersox and Ostrander to review any legal issues concerning the expansion of North Carroll Farms.
North Carroll Farms Section IV, which is expected to add more than 100 homes to the north end of town, is currently being challenged in Carroll County Circuit Court by a group of residents who feel approval was improperly granted by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Other residents have raised ethical concerns because the town attorney, Thomas Gisriel, is representing those citizens fighting North Carroll Farms.
Mr. Gisriel, who practices law in Towson, became Hampstead's attorney last spring when a new mayor and council took office.
Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt voted with the three other council members to hire the Westminster firm after she was assured of its qualifications. Councilman Dwight Womer was unable to attend the meeting.
Last night, Mrs. Hyatt was told that the Westminster firm had been recommended by Town Manager Neil Ridgely -- who worked with both Michelle Ostrander and her partner, Brian Bowersox, when they were with the Carroll County attorney's office -- and Mayor Jack Gullo of New Windsor.
Before becoming town manager, Mr. Ridgely was the county's forest conservation manager.
Mrs. Hyatt had argued this spring that it looked like a conflict of interest for the town to hire Mr. Gisriel. Mrs. Hyatt also pointed out that Mr. Gisriel also is Councilman Stephen A. Holland's personal attorney.
Among the Westminster firm's first duties will be to review an agreement between the CSX Railway and Martin K. P. Hill, the developer building North Carroll Farms Section IV.
Under the agreement, county and town officials will close several roads in exchange for allowing Mr. Hill to build a road that will cross the CSX rail line.