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Ethical Questions Raised Regarding Seagrams and Zoning Hearing

Should Mr. Holupka recuse himself on the Seagrams matter?

The Comprehensive Zoning Map Process public hearing concerning the Seagram’s Property that took place at the Patapsco High School, held on March 27, 2012, raises some concerns over the role of Councilman John Olszewski’s appointment of Scott Holupka to the Baltimore County Planning Board, their relationship to the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation, the and the request to rezone the Seagram’s Property located at 7101 Sollers Point Road in Dundalk.

This rezoning matter was further highlighted by an article in the Dundalk Eagle in which Mr. Vontran’s proposed swap of the Seagram’s property for the county government center and his proposal to build a new government facility on the Seagram’s property, along with a recreation council center and senior housing.

One of the issues is an email sent by Mr. Scot Holupka, a board member of the DRC, one month prior to the zoning hearing entitled – “Meeting with John Vontran re Seagram’s” - in which Mr. Holupka wrote the following: 

“John Vontran wants to meet with community leaders to present his development plans for the Seagram's site.  While we just started contacting people most of those interested said that they would prefer to meet this week, so the meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, February 29th, at 6:30 PM at the DRC office.  We hope you are able to attend.  Signed Scott (Holupka)”

The Baltimore County Ethics Commission  states Under Article 7  the following: 

“(b) Public confidence and trust.  It is evident that public confidence and trust is eroded when the conduct of county business is subject to improper influence or when there is the appearance of improper influence.”

Additionally the law further states with regards to a nonprofit, which the DRC is a 501C.3 federal government tax exempt corporation:

 A Board member may not participate in any matter involving a business entity:

Including a non-profit, in which he is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee.

In the Eagle article it goes into detail about the meeting between Mr. Vontran, the DRC and local community leaders which were held on February 29th.  It discusses the plans for the Seagram’s property along with a proposal by Mr. Vontran to engage in a trade with the county that would swap the old distillery property for the Baltimore County Government Center property located at Wise Avenue and Merritt Boulevard.

Also present at the meeting was Amy Menzer, executive director of the DRC.  The DRC has supported Mr. Vontran’s prior plan for the Yorkway homes development, where Holupka and his wife now own a home.

Amy Menzer, Mr. Holupka’s wife, stated in the article, “We hosted a meeting for Vontran with some community leaders after our executive committee heard about the proposal. Which they think has a lot of potential to address people’s desire for big-box retail in Dundalk, and to redevelop the long–vacant Seagram’s property.”

On the night of the event I contacted the DRC in preparations to attend the meeting.  At first I was told there was no meeting and then when I asked for additional clarification, I was told there was, but it was a private affair.  I was then advised that Mr. Holupka would call me. He did not, but Mr. Vontran did.

In lieu of my not attempting to attend this closed door meeting, Mr. Vontran promised me a one-on-one conversation to clear the air.  He did not respond to my email in attempting to schedule that meeting.

The fact that Mr. Holupka sits on the county’s planning board which could influence the zoning of the Seagram’s property, and he has engaged in closed door meetings with the developer, leads one to question whether or not he can maintain his objectivity in this matter.  The issue is further compounded by the email he sent regarding the private meeting held at the DRC and the fact that he is a board member of the DRC.  What is the DRC’s role in this considering their past relations with the councilman and the developer?  Did the DRC question Mr. Vontran’s assertions regarding the proposed box store concept?

among the citizens of the Seventh District in a process that will impact their communities for decades to come.

Susan Whichman, the Executive Director of Common Cause in Maryland, said that it is the right of the citizen (s) to raise these questions.  When contacted the spokesperson for the Baltimore County Ethics Commission they said there was no one available to answer inquiries.  After receiving a second call I am now awaiting information as to the proper procedures regarding the protocol for citizens who wish to file a complaint.

The ultimate question would be should Mr. Holupka recuse himself from the process involving issues related to the Seagram’s property.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jack Salty September 01, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Buzz, lack of knowledge? Lacking in those issue of which you write about? You have no clue of how wrong you are. Wow, if you only knew...
Buzz Beeler September 02, 2013 at 06:20 AM
Jack, a real class act. Typical response when faced with a problem you have no answer to. With words like you use all you do is validate my point. I have no clue. Why don't you enlighten me with your wisdom minus the cuss words. I can't wait to hear you wisdom. Waite till Tuesday when you see my next article. But I would guess with your great knowledge of facts you probably know all about it.
Ashley Virginia September 02, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Here is two jack: How long after your taxes become delinquent is your property placed in tax sales satus and a property auction date set? Why is it that other properties have been placed up for action for delinquent taxes, yet Seagrams has not been, and the property is in Tax Sales Status?
Jack Salty September 03, 2013 at 06:37 AM
First off Buzz I haven't seen one article you have written. All blogs. Second, if your "article" is political I can guarantee it is old news to me.
Jack Salty September 03, 2013 at 06:52 AM
Since I'm a real estate investor I would gladly answer this for you. Your tax bill is delinquent after October 1 the year your taxes are due. A final notice is sent in March and usually put up for tax sale in June. If you're speaking of Seagrams, I do not own Seagrams. So I cannot provide you the answer on why, but I can speculate. Let me let you in on a little secret. Baltimore County can pick which properties they send to tax sale! The cat is out of the bag now! Make sure Buzzy sees this so he can write a blog about it. I'm sure the owner of said property has the ability to ask for an extension/reprieve. That could also delay it being sent to tax sale. Does that answer your questions? Do not reply with more questions about how long it's been delinquent or how long it has been in a certain status because that is all part of the red tape game and no one person has an answer.

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