Mayor & Commissioners Shake-Up Historic District Commission

The Mayor and Commissioners of Elkton are shaking things up with the town’s historic district commission.  Rumors about the reorganization started circulating on the Internet about the time the town was in court facing a taxpayer suit over zoning issues and fee waivers.  Soon thereafter, Mike Dixon, the Chair of the board, and Deborah Storke, a commission member, received letters from Mayor Joseph Fisona informing them that they would not be reappointed by the Mayor and Commissioners for a second term.  

Additional rumors have been swirling around indicating that two individuals with close ties to the Elkton Alliance have been selected as replacements.  Typically these decisions are discussed by the town board, but the subject has not received a public airing as the officials consider and select suitable appointments.      

North St before before old structures were bulldozed for parking lots

 

Established in 2007, the historic district commission is responsible for protecting the historical architecture and fabric of areas within the zoning overlay district.  Whenever a property owner wants to make exterior changes to a building in the designated area, largely the downtown part of the municipality, a permit has to be obtained from the commission.  The board works to help assure that changes are consistent with the historical character of the area.  Elkton struggled to build political consensus for the overlay zoning district and find qualified volunteers to staff it for over a decade, before finally activating the board in 2007.  

Two original members, Paula Newton and Fred McDonald, were reappointed.  Linda Griffith, The fifth representative has a few more years in her term.  She was appointed in September 2009 during a vote that caused a rupture in the usual voting alignment that consists of Mayor Fisona, and Commissioners Jablonski and Piner.  Commissioner Jablonski strongly urged the appointment of another candidate and a good deal of wrangling took place.  When the vote finally took place Commissioner Piner surprised the audience by siding with Commissioners Givens and Storke

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17 responses to “Mayor & Commissioners Shake-Up Historic District Commission

  1. Elaine Barclay

    What!? I am really somewhat speechless. or should i say i am not surprised at all.

    • Elaine: Thanks Elaine for posting your comment. it’s about what I’d anticipated once I started taking stands on preservation advocacy and downtown revitalization, as well as publishing in a straight-forward, professional manner municipal public policy news that isn’t covered anywhere.

      They really don’t want these things covered in new or legacy media, but since newspapers weren’t covered it I decided to fill that gap.

  2. Talk about not what you know but WHO YOU KNOW!!! This is a disgrace to the folks who established the Elkton Chamber of Commerce that no longer esixts.

    • Joan: That was such a strong organization and a force for progressive advancement of the municipaltiy. I wonder what Henry Metz and many of those other old leaders would think.

  3. Let’s get this straight. Mike Dixon—who knows more about the history of Elkton than all the elected and appointed deep thinkers sitting in the big chairs at their public and “secret” meetings—is FIRED from a non paying job. And it looks like this has occurred because he has dared to have been critical of the “smartest people in the room.” So the bumbling know-it-alls in power toss away the county’s most valuable historical resource, in retaliation of his publication in this web site of facts and inquiries that expose these same elected officials’ possible errors and questionable actions. Well, who is really shocked? I bet when the bigwigs need some serious historical input in the future, they’ll end up paying out big taxpayer bucks to some out-of-town consultant, who will charge them for all the many hours spent looking up information that Mister History (Dixon) could provide within seconds FOR FREE. Well, here’s a toast to you Big Mike. Thanks for keeping your eye on the antics of the city and county’s elected and appointed Keystone Kops. You’re better off not hanging out with that crowd and providing them the benefit of your FREE knowledge. Let’s look for more empty buildings, “for rent” signs, unsightly parking lots and bland modern bank structures in Elkton’s disappearing “historic” district. The mayor and commissioners should be ashamed of their petty and pathetic action against both Mr. Dixon and Mrs Storke.

    • Zogloba: In your own unique way of putting it, you’ve got it about straight. But it is also about what I anticipated as I mentioned to Joan.

      When Mayor Fisona joined Commissioner Jablonski in a serious attempt to hand over part of Elk Landing to a big box developer, and I had to speak up for preserving Elkton History, one could see how this was going to play out, especially after the town had to back out of the deal (eventually).

      Add to that my strong advocacy related to revitalization of our old downtowns, which often means being critical of things, when the right solution-set hasn’t been selected, and it was beginning to build up.

      The third offense, occurred after they caused me to realize that most of their public policy decisions weren’t getting covered in the newpspapers, especially the important ones. thus they caused me to start a citizen journalism site. I keep the reporting straight and professional, though I do toss in editorial pieces from time to time.

      Those would be the three items that did it.

  4. Thank you zogloba for saying the things I could not say without getting estremely nasty.

  5. Oh, go ahead, Joan. Let loose. Give them a blast or two.

  6. I’m telling ya – someone has to shoot a reality show pilot in Elkton. People watch The Jersey Shore… This one could have a higher level of humor where it requires a bit more thinking to get the viewer laughing.

    It could even be an Internet show on U-Stream… Edit together the town meetings – then interview them afterward about the meeting and see if they can remember what they said… I think you might even get big media attention if someone would do something similar to the TMZ videos…. Catch them going somewhere and ask the commissioners and mayor questions…

    What do you think?

    Wayne

    • Wayne: There are a couple of other bloggers that are getting into this citizen journalism thing. One, Cecil Times, is doing outstanding political coverage of the county level and the blogger showed up to cover the Elkton trail. I thought it was helpful from the community’s standpoint to have two independent new media sites covering the meeting, since it gave readers a more balanced perspective. It was almost like in your day when you’d have three or four reporters covering the meeting. If one of you missed something or didn’t want to write about it for whatever reason, you know the others would jump on it.

      The Whig finally covered the trail, where Elkton admitted that it’s law didn’t permit it to take those actions 8 days after the new media sites published it.

      BTW, the Cecil Times blogger went over to the Mayor and Commissioner Jablonski to ask them if they’d passed an ordinance five days before the trail started to make the actions they’d taken in Dec. 09 legal. They had, of course, and it required a public meeting. I stood at a distance and watched as the two political leaders told the reporter they didn’t remember if they had passed it or not. They suggested she call the town secretary to see what had happend with that charter-mandated public hearing and formal vote!

  7. Mike,
    Yes, so nice that the Whig finally followed us over a week later on this story. But the building permit angle might be up your alley to follow up on.
    The building permit was issued before the court ruling, which found the whole process had been illegal. So it was clear to all in court that there would have to be a “do-over” of the whole process. So the building permit should be null and void, no?
    Go git ‘em, Mike!

    (By the way, my question to the mayor and Mary Jo before the trial began were predicated on their not having put the minutes of the meeting online, so I wanted to confirm their vote. But it was evident in the courtroom evidence a short time later precisely what ordinance revisions they had made to accomodate the housing project.)

  8. Cecil Times:

    I was just amazed that when you went over to Commisioner Jablonski & Mayor Fisona to verify the action they’d taken a few days before, they said they didn’t know what they’d done and said you should check with the secretary. The amazing part of that was that they’d had to discuss it as a public policy issue, have two readings of the changed ordinance and hold a charter mandated public hearing. All that took places days earlier. A long time ago I learned that I couildn’t wait until they published the mintues or it wouild be old news and any chance for public participation in the process would have long passed.

    The judge was funny too as it identified three ordinances that they had to go back and changer after the fact, including the parking lot issue.

    It was intersting to watch. Great coverage of an imporant public matter. thanks

  9. I hate to say this, but do what you’re doing (covering politicians at the local level) – and you will become jaded (if not already so).

    When I was younger, I used to think each time something so unbelievable like this would happen – that it was the exception and not the norm.

    After covering local officials in nearly 20 jurisdictions in two states (MD and PA) – it’s more common than you’d hope.

    That being said – there are some real winners in Cecil County – that’s for sure. And, I’d have to say that I’ve only dealt with one state Attorney General in the 15 years – and that was connected to a series of articles about Elkton – so there is that distinction.

    FYI – I was married in Elkton and people I care about live in Elkton.

    Wayne

  10. Wayne:

    You’ll be pleased to know that in the older political circles, they still recall those in depth stories ou did. For a small town weekly, those were outstanding pieces of investigative reporting you did. I too remember them and they were almost funny watching them unfold in a small weekly newspaper as politicans jumped all over the place explaning what they did and as new evidence would come forward reworking their positions.

    We haven’t had too much of that since you moved on, and in recent years we’ve had none of it. The Whig rarely send a reporter to Elkton meetings.

    There were a few exceptions such as Justin Quinn and one other journlaist. I’m forgetting his name. They too would look for more than the soundbyte the politicans offered and dig into their statements. That made for good beat journalism and helped sell papers.

    It is also a valuable service, making for better, governemnt, when politicans know that what they say is going to get examined by the media.

    Right now this thing with the fee waiver is an example. As late as Dec. 09 Gary Storke was warning all of them about the continuing wiaver of fees aytime anyone showed up. Yet all of the other commissioners and mayor had no problem waiving the fee and also taking three actions that were outside what the ordinances allowed. At that Dec. meeting, they ended up waiving about $200,000 in fees for a private developer. (There was an earlier $50,000).

    Now all at once, the county is facing a half-million dollar assessment from Elkton for fees and they can’t waive those because their budget is too tight. That is money that all taxpayers are going to pay in this situation, including Elkton taxpayers. What’s a difference a few months makes, but what a difference reason to waive fees if one routinely did that for every other applicant that showed up.

    For years, Gary would get after them about adding expense or waiving fees. Now they’ve finally become real fiscal coveratives over the spring and into the early summer. Guess this latest budget must’ve scarred them, but it’s interesting that they couldn’t see what was coming a few months before that.

  11. Scott Goss, was a great reporter for Elkton. He was always at the Elkton Town Meetings, until he moved up the ladder.

  12. Patrick: I agree, Scott Goss, took care of the town beat. The value I found in his reporting was that he was a little skeptical and he’d ask follow-up questions of the politicians that dug into something a little more. I have a direct correlation that helps me understand when the beat political reporters are good. If the politicans grumble about them a little, it probalby means they’re doing their job, not just printing press releases for them. I used to hear a good deal of that grumbling about Scott so that’s one of my indicators.

    The Whig really has an excellent group in its newsroom. The problem is they get no say on how much staff they’re allocated so they can sufficiently cover the county. Too it’s helpful if managemnet will unleash the reporters a little and allow them to dig into things. I think I’m beginning to see some more of that in the News Journal recently.

  13. I remember when Joe shook up the planning commission. It took some time to out what he was doing taking off some good people off that committee. Now I have figured it out. Joe didn’t want anyone on there that would think in there own way and might not agree with him. That’s it. Now I’ve figured what Joe was up to back then. That had to be Joes plan.

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