Calvert County Times January 11, 2018 - Page 5

The Calvert County Times Thursday, January 11, 2018 Local News 5 Judge Dismisses Planning Board Members’ Suit By Guy Leonard Staff Writer In 2016 the Calvert Board of County Commission- ers dismissed two members of the county planning commission because of their refusal to follow direc- tives to stop paying for outside legal counsel, among other issues. Both Maurice Lusby, former planning chair, and co-chair Michael Phipps, both long-time members filed suit alleging the county acted improperly in removing them and asked the court to reverse the county’s decision. Judge James P. Salmon’s ruling of Dec. 21 dashed their hopes as he dismissed all of their allegations with prejudice. In two separate opinions, speaking on various counts alleged by the two petitioners against the county commissioners, the judge sided firmly with the county. “In particular, the board… did not engage in any wrongful conduct in dismissing the two commis- sioners,” Salmon ruled on the first three counts and on count No. 5. On the fourth count in the civil suit, which asked the court to reinstate both Lusby and Phipps to their former positions, Salmon was equally forceful. “The petitioners are not entitled to any of the de- claratory relief that they have requested,” Salmon wrote in his opinion. “The board was acting within their statutory authority when they instructed peti- tioners to stop expending public funds by contract- ing for outside legal services.” The county government took issue with other con- troversial actions of the planning commission that led to Lusby’s and Phipp’s dismissal Back in November of 2016, County Attorney John Norris said that the county’s planning commission had essentially acted improperly so as to make itself apart from the authority of county government. “The planning commission feels that they are overseers of the county’s land use policy… they feel that they are independent,” Norris had said. “They are not.” Norris said one of the main charges against the planning commission’s leadership went back to a case heard in June of 2016 where the members were to hear a case of a text amendment that would have allowed drive-thru windows at certain establish- ments in rural-commercial (RC) zone. The planning commission denied the measure a public hearing as was required under law, Norris said, tabling the discussion until the county ap- proved its new zoning and comprehensive plan. “It got held up without being able to go through due process,” Norris said. “That’s regardless of whether it’s a good or bad text amendment.” The commission also scuttled a joint public hear- ing between themselves and the county commission- ers, Norris had said, that would have taken place in TAYLOR GAS COMPANY is your source for vented and vent free FIREPLACE SALES & SERVIC Stop by our showroom or call us for a FREE in-home estimate! 21434 Great Mills Rd. Lexington Park MD 20653 (301) 862-1000 or l-855-764-(4GAS) 4427 June of 2016 regarding a text amendment that would have increased the allowable square footage of a commercial building in town centers. This had come to be known as the “big box” text amendment. Norris said an e-mail message from outside legal counsel for the planning commission, John Yacov- elle, stated that the planning commissioners had used an e-mail chain to decide to cancel the June 14 scheduled meeting; this was done without any pub- lic discussion or meeting.