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Sharpsburg officials try to avoid 'downtown disaster'

April 29, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - Some Sharpsburg residents and town officials said Monday night they don't want a business district in the town that is completely zoned residential.

"You might be creating another urban downtown disaster. If anybody has learned anything from the City of Hagerstown, that should be it," said Town Councilman Ralph Hammond.

The mayor and Council members, at the request of the town's Board of Zoning Appeals, discussed the possibility of creating a business district. The zoning appeals board had asked for guidance on the size of the area in which businesses should be allowed to operate.

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Sharpsburg is one of only a few incorporated towns in Maryland to have completely residential zoning. Under that zoning, anyone wishing to open a business must apply for a special exception.

There are at least two other incorporated towns in Maryland zoned residential - Rosemont in Frederick County and Highland Beach, an old beach resort south of Annapolis, officials said.

Sharpsburg officials have never tried to attract business, which creating a business district could do, said Councilman Russ Weaver.

In March, the zoning board approved special exceptions for three antique shops, including one in a shed behind a home at 205 W. Main St.

"We don't need a business district," said Jean Harne, who owns a quilt shop on Main Street.

Harne said the town's zoning officials shouldn't have approved the zoning exception for 205 W. Main St. because off-street parking wasn't available.

The town's planning commission had recommended the exception not be approved because of the parking situation.

Former mayor Ron Milburn said he doesn't support a business district, but would like specific buildings in town to be zoned for a limited number of businesses so zoning hearings weren't always necessary.

Vice Mayor Sid Gale said spot zoning isn't allowed.

Milburn said he shouldn't have to seek a zoning exemption to use a building that housed a similar business a few years earlier.

It also takes too long to get the hearing set up, costing the property owner and business person valuable time and money, said Milburn.

Milburn owns a building at 100 E. Main St., where an ice cream shop is located and an exception for an antique shop was approved in March. A request to locate a pizza and sub shop there was rejected last November.

Mayor George Kesler said town officials would make sure future hearings are prompt.

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