Hiltz quits zoning panel; Diminished role of commission bothers former chairman


Thomas G. Hiltz has resigned as a member of the county Planning and Zoning Commission, saying he is interested in running for the school board and frustrated by the direction of planning in Carroll.

The former commission chairman, who has earned a reputation as an independent and thoughtful voice on land-use issues, submitted his resignation, effective immediately, to the county commissioners Wednesday.

Hiltz mentioned new responsibilities at work and the demands of his family as his main reasons for leaving, but he also said it was time for him to move on to other areas of public service. He said he might run for the school board next year.

Hiltz, whose term is to expire in February, said he is disappointed by the board's diminished role in planning decisions.

"It would be disingenuous if I didn't say I had been frustrated by some of the decisions that have affected the planning commission. I've been frustrated by some of the lack of credibility given to its insights and decisions," he said. "In some respects, we are regarded as an obstacle. I don't think that's the right way to look at the planning commission."

Hiltz said he is disappointed that Carroll's master plan, the blueprint for county development, has not been approved by the county commissioners.

It is unclear who will replace Hiltz on the commission. Two other seats will become open in February, when the terms of members Deborah L. Ridgely and Grant S. Dannelly will expire. Ridgely said the board has an alternate, David Brauning, to serve the rest of Hiltz's term.

The county commissioners, who are expected to make the three new appointments in February, could not be reached for comment.

Ridgely said it is unlikely the commissioners will find someone of Hiltz's caliber. "Tom is a conscientious, thorough person," she said. "He thoroughly examines any plans or proposals. He is very thorough in his research, constantly referring to zoning documents. I don't know if anyone who would be named to replace him would be that thorough."

Hiltz's announcement was the second resignation from a Carroll panel this week. On Tuesday, Hobart D. "Hoby" Wolf, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, resigned, listing the demands of business and family.

Hiltz was one of two members appointed to the board in 1995, when the commissioners decided to increase the planning commission to seven members from five.

The commissioners said the additional members would make the panel more responsive to residents who want slow growth.

Hiltz, 40, is a technical assistant for reactors to the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981 and served in the Navy for six years. He later earned a master's degree in nuclear engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Asked to name the biggest challenge facing Carroll County planning, Hiltz replied, "The fact that we don't have any."

Hiltz added, "We really don't have contemporary zoning ordinances. We don't have a commitment to planning. Put all the politics aside, it's fundamentally important to figure out where you want to be in five, 10 or 20 years. We are not good at that."

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