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Smithsburg Town Council votes to repeal building permit ban

January 11, 2002

Smithsburg Town Council votes to repeal building permit ban



By ANDREW SCHOTZ
andrews@herald-mail.com


SMITHSBURG - The Smithsburg Town Council on Tuesday took steps to end a simmering conflict with a development company over infrastructure improvements.

The council voted 4-1 to repeal a ban imposed last month on building permits for Smithsburg Development Corp. and its Whispering Hills and Mountain Shadows subdivisions. Most of the work in dispute has been finished.

Councilman Mike Rohrer cast the only vote against repealing the ban. He said road paving in the developments isn't done and accused the council of letting Smithsburg Development off the hook.

Before the vote, council members and Mayor Tommy Bowers took the company to task for missing deadlines and ignoring the town's demands to talk about the problem.

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"What we got was nothing and we got more of nothing ...," Councilman Jerome Martin said. "We have been treated with disdain as a council and a mayor."

Doug Bachtell, a principal in Smithsburg Development Corp., said the improvements took longer than he expected.

"We had every intention of getting more work done this summer than was completed," he said.

He said neither safety nor town money was in jeopardy.

The council said it pressured Bachtell and his associate, Aaron Orndorff, for the better part of two years to repave streets around Orndorff Drive, install sidewalks, secure unoccupied properties, remove debris and put up street lights.

The council imposed a deadline, then pushed it back a few times when the work wasn't done.

In December, the council said it would withhold building permits and notify bonding companies.

A lot of the work was done after that. Council members said only the paving is left.

Smithsburg Development's attorney, Edward Kuczynski, argued Tuesday that the ban on permits was unreasonable and excessive, in light of the company's long history of cooperation with the town.

He used the phrase "arbitrary and capricious," hinting at a lawsuit. Martin and Councilman Jake Johnson later said they were insulted by the accusation.

Subcontractors Kevin Jeter of Jeter Paving and Robert Craig of Craig Paving were among those who lobbied on behalf of the developer.

Craig said Smithsburg Development asked him to do the work last spring, but the weather and a large state contract kept him from getting to the Smithsburg job, which might take about a week.

Bowers said he and the council hadn't heard that explanation.

"This is the first time we heard that as a governing body," Bowers said.

Before nullifying the permit ban, Bowers said it served its purpose: It forced Smithsburg Development to come to Town Hall. Bachtell agreed that he should have kept in better touch with the town.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Mann, who works for First United Bank and Trust, which does business with Smithsburg Development, voted in favor of the ban.

She said she did not excuse herself from voting because she doesn't work in the commercial lending division, which handles Smithsburg Development's account. She said she would excuse herself from a vote or discussion only if it involved town banking business.

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