Hampstead's five-member council will ask permission to enter the Circuit Court review of a subdivision that some town residents have fought since August 1994. Town officials stressed yesterday, however, that they are nrth end of Hampstead.
They are entering the case only to answer arguments from Mr. Hill's attorney, Elwood Swam, that a Hampstead ordinance allowing any town taxpayer to appeal a planning and zoning commission decision is invalid, officials said.
"The town's intention in joining the suit is in preserving the integrity of its law," said Michelle M. Ostrander, a Westminster attorney recently hired by the town to review legal issues involving North Carroll Farms IV.
Hampstead officials hired Ms. Ostrander in September, after some town residents raised ethical concerns because the town attorney, Thomas J. Gisriel of Towson, is representing citizens who are opposed to expanding North Carroll Farms.
Mr. Gisriel, who practices law with Hodes, Ulman, Pessin & Katz, became Hampstead's attorney last spring when a new mayor and council took office.
"This is the most prudent course of action to protect our rights on this level," Ms. Ostrander said, adding that if town officials do not attempt to enter the case now, they could lose the right to appeal if Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. strikes down the town ordinance.
Ms. Ostrander was expected to file motions yesterday asking Judge Beck whether the town could enter the case, arguing that Hampstead officials now have an interest in the proceedings because Mr. Swam is challenging their ordinance.
"We just want to make sure our side of the story is told," Mayor Christopher Nevin said yesterday.
The Town Council voted 5-0 Monday night to ask Judge Beck for the right to enter the case.
In motions filed in July in Carroll County Circuit Court, Mr. Swam has argued that Hampstead's ordinance is invalid because of conflicts between state laws governing planning and laws regarding appeals.
Mr. Gisriel has argued in his motions that the ordinance -- which was written in response to this case -- is valid because all taxpayers may appeal Board of Zoning Appeal decisions to Circuit Court.
That right to appeal decisions to Circuit Court would be meaningless if taxpayers could not participate in cases before the Board of Zoning Appeals, Mr. Gisriel said.
Town officials passed the ordinance expanding taxpayers appeals rights in June. The ordinance was passed after Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals quashed an appeal of the planning commission's decision to approve North Carroll Farms Section IV.
At the time, board members said the subdivision's opponents were no more aggrieved than any other resident of Hampstead.
the subdivision in August, although county and state officials indicated that roads and schools in the area were inadequate to support the additional demands on public facilities that the development would create.
Hampstead's code states that the commission should deny or delay building plans if town, state or county agencies indicate that the infrastructure -- roads, schools and fire protection, for example -- is inadequate.
Hampstead commission members -- on the advice of legal counsel -- said they could not deny Mr. Hill's subdivision because the county controls school construction. Commission members also noted that the state controls Route 30, the main road through town.
A hearing on the citizens' appealis scheduled for Nov. 29 in Carroll County Circuit Court.