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Council needs special session to OK driveway request

August 11, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

FUNKSTOWN -- The issue of whether to approve a Funkstown resident's request for a new driveway entrance to a Baltimore Street property got complicated Monday evening when the town's vice mayor suggested the council look at the property before making a decision, and then vote on the matter by telephone.

Then, four council members walked to the property and tacitly approved the plan -- after the town's regular Town Council meeting was adjourned.

During the regular monthly town meeting, drawings, photographs and a letter from the Maryland State Highway Administration were presented about the 46 W. Baltimore St. property.

All requests for curb cuts must clear a number of hurdles, including approval by the town council. This request was on the official printed meeting agenda.

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Anthony Taylor of Frederick, Seibert and Associates, an engineering and architectural firm, described the danger the homeowners could face at their current parking site along Westside Avenue.

Vice Mayor Paul N. Crampton Jr. agreed, but said he wanted to go out and look at the property and the proposed curb cut for the Baltimore Street entrance.

"Then we can take a telephone vote," Crampton said.

After the town meeting was formally adjourned, Crampton and council members Kim Ramer, Richard Nigh and Jerry Walker walked up to the house. Crampton stopped short of saying they took a vote while at the property, but he did acknowledge that the four came to a favorable agreement on the issue.

Contacted by telephone Tuesday, Town Attorney Robert Kuczynski, who was not at the meeting, said "This was possibly an executive session."

But he said no formal decision may be made in executive session.

Crampton said Tuesday that a special meeting would have to be called to vote on the matter.

"And I'll have to call (our attorney) to see about whether we needed to advertise that meeting," Crampton said.

William Varga, a Maryland assistant attorney general and expert on the Open Meetings Act, agreed that the remedy is easy and would be corrected by Crampton's suggested special meeting.

"It could be just a sign on the door of the town hall announcing the meeting and its content," Varga said.

Both Varga and Kuczynski agreed that a telephone vote wouldn't have been legal.

The concern at the Monday night meeting was that the proposed curb cut would be accessible only through the right-turn lane on Baltimore Street, which is also Alt. U.S. 40.

The homeowners had parking available in front of their house until the State Highway Administration put a turn lane in, according to information provided at the meeting. Now the homeowners' vehicles are parked on an angle along the side of the house, and they have limited visibility when backing out onto the road.

Taylor said a stone wall and steep grade on the Westside Avenue side precludes an entrance there.

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