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Garrett planners want zoning referendum

The Garrett County Planning Commission approved 6-1 a recommendation to the county commissioners for a referendum vote on county-wide zoning.

“The county commissioners have said they wouldn’t support it without referendum,” Troy Ellington, chairman, said. “We are going to ask the commissioners to request county-wide zoning again be put up for referendum vote.”

This came following a request by Oakland resident Barbara Boone that the planning commission consider an Adequate Public Facility Ordinance, which would allow local government to deny or delay new developments if existing services could not support them. It would require developers to prove there would be adequate services for new developments they propose.

William Wantz, an attorney from Hagerstown representing several residents, including Boone, spoke on the benefits of an APFO as well as the possibility for the planning commission to incorporate what is called “performance zoning.”

Wantz said performance zoning would be allowed not only as an amendment to the Deep Creek Lake Watershed area, but to the rest of the county, as it focuses on impact and not on regulating and permitting specific uses. He said this would be different from more traditional zoning, and according to Maryland law would be legal to apply outside the watershed.

He also believes the county would be within right to place a moratorium specifically on the development of wind turbines.

This, Boone hoped, would allow the county to enforce regulations against wind turbines.

The commission voted 4-3 against the APFO, saying that information from County Attorney Mike Getty indicated that zoning could not be placed outside the Deep Creek Watershed zoning area.

“This commission does see valid concern,” Ellington said. “We’re being asked to request the county commissioners do something the county attorney says is illegal.”

The request and the accompanying petition of more than 250 names will go to the county commissioners without a recommendation from the planning commission.

The vote was the same for the moratorium on wind turbine production, with Ellington saying that he felt they could not go to the county commissioners again asking for a moratorium. A similar request in February had been made, and Getty said that it would not be possible to restrict just wind turbine development, and that the county would have to halt all construction within the county. It was rejected by the county commissioners at that time.

By Sarah Moses

Cumberland Times-News

18 April 2008