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YMCA still in the Pines

By TOM STAUSS/Publisher 1/14/2006

It turns out that County Commissioner Tom Cetola, who is chairing the steering committee that is trying to secure a location for a north county YMCA, really doesn’t want to take the YMCA out of Ocean Pines and Gum Point Road. Nor does he think that Seahawk Road outside Berlin is the best option among four possible choices. It’s just that, at the moment, the site on Seahawk Road across from the middle and high schools seems to have majority support among his colleagues on the county commissioners. He gets this from private, informal conversations with his colleagues, which is a long way from any formal action or voting that would make these views official.

The views of the commissioners are important, because they would have to approve rezoning and take other actions to facilitate a YMCA at that location. But at the moment, these pro-Seahawk Road views are hardly dispositive, as neither the local steering committee, that Cetola chairs, or the YMCA board in Salisbury have taken actions to recommend Seahawk Road as the preferred YMCA site. It’s still exploratory, and there are still four options on the table for consideration, including Gum Point Road. In fact, Gum Point/Ocean Pines is still the official site, supported in the past by the commissioners and the Ocean Pines Association.

In early January, Cetola also seemed disposed to seek out a definitive explanation for why the findings of fact to accompany the Board of Zoning Appeals’ rejection of a special exception for the Gum Point Road site have not yet been produced, almost six months after the meeting in which a vote was taken.

OPA director Dan Stachurski said recently he also wonders why it’s taken so long to produce the findings, from which a decision can be made whether to appeal the BZA rejection to Worcester County Circuit Court. Cetola said he would ask county attorney Ed Hammond to tell him whether there is any statutory requirement to produce findings within a given time frame. Stachurski said he would ask the OPA board to ask the OPA attorney to investigate the same question.

If there are any other lawyers out there who might know, or who can find out, they should feel free to contact Cetola, Stachurski or the Progress with their discoveries.

Whether or not there is a statutory requirement, the six-month delay is outrageous and inexcusable. It’s either blatant incompetence on the part of the BZA attorney or a deliberate attempt to skew and slow down the process in favor of Seahawk Road. If there is a third possibility, it doesn’t spring immediately to mind.

Stachurski suggests that Cetola convene a meeting of the local YMCA steering committee, of which Stachurski and other Pines residents are members, before making comments to the local media that seem to suggest that Seahawk Road is the more likely future home of the north county Y. It’s been six months since the group last met, and another meeting would seem long overdue.

Stachurski also suggests that maybe it’s time for Cetola to bow out as steering committee chairman, that it’s a role that may be incompatible with his role as a county commissioner. That very well may be true, but then someone has to be willing to step up to take over from Cetola, who only assumed the mantle of acting chairman because no one else would. It was that, or seeing the north county Y fade from the radar screen for good.

For now, or until he finds someone to replace him, Cetola remains the YMCA point person. At the top of his agenda should be the task of finding out why the BZA findings of fact are nowhere to be found.

Six months later, the BZA should either produce the findings immediately or take a new vote and approve the request for a special exception.

Uploaded: 1/19/2006