Finksburg residents urge county board to make government accessible


Finksburg residents urged the commissioners last night to pay more attention to their concerns about billboards and other issues and to make county government more accessible.

"We have concerns that you have not responded to requests for a moratorium ... on billboards," said Finksburg resident Neil Ridgely. "Quite frankly, they appear to be multiplying and getting larger and higher, yet not one of our board members [of the Finksburg Planning Area Council] ... has been asked to help review the sign ordinance."

About 200 people, including several county staff members, attended the planning area council meeting at Sandymount United Methodist Church.

Residents voiced concerns about traffic congestion and billboards, and questioned the rationale behind recent board decisions involving water resources and development rights.

Board President Julia Walsh Gouge and Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who was raised in Finksburg, fielded questions for more than an hour. Commissioner Donald I. Dell did not attend.

Much of last night's discussion centered on the council's recent report card, which rated the commissioners in 13 areas. The county leaders received poor grades in 10 categories, including an F for open government and a D for responsiveness.

Since the board took office in December 1998, the commissioners have held more than 50 executive sessions - meetings behind closed doors. The topics discussed in those meetings are not made public.

The scorecard focused on Finksburg, along Routes 140 and 91, and on broader issues in Carroll, such as schools, roads and planning.

Since the Finksburg group issued the report card in June, county government has become more accessible, said council President Donald Hoffman. He noted Gouge's recent public meetings in South Carroll, and Frazier and Dell's attendance at the Freedom Area Citizens Council meeting last month.

Several residents said they would like the board to listen to public input more often and hoped to see improvement before the council issues its next report card in October.

Without seeking public comment, Frazier and Dell have refused to sign the Reservoir Watershed Protection Agreement, a four-page document that provides environmental safeguards for land surrounding Liberty Reservoir, part of the metropolitan water supply. They argue that the pact would allow Baltimore County and Baltimore City to influence zoning decision in 40 percent of the county.

Frazier and Dell have also voted to take water from Piney Run Reservoir instead of drawing more water from Liberty Reservoir. That decision also was made without resident input.

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