Special zoning sought for fort

September 22, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

The Washington County Commissioners asked the county planning commission at a public hearing Monday night to rezone Fort Ritchie from conservation to a newly created designation called Special Economic Development District.

A spokesman for the Sierra Club opposed the rezoning.

The commissioners acted on behalf of the PenMar Development Corp., a private/public agency that is heading the effort to redevelop the military base, which is scheduled to close on Oct. 1.

The current reuse plan calls for the site to be a combination high technology center, education/training conference center, and residential area, said Washington County Planning Director Robert C. Arch.

Arch said it was necessary to create the Special Economic Development District for the 617-acre base in the northeast corner of Washington County, if the reuse plan is to succeed.


The special zoning designation is designed in part to cut corners. Arch said using existing zoning classifications for the fort would have resulted in time-consuming hearings to allow nonconforming uses.

Arch said the special zoning is designed so that the new Fort Ritchie plan can proceed quickly, and blend in with the character of the surrounding rural community. He said the zoning calls for sensitivity to environmental issues and need for open space.

Arch said the fact Ritchie is a unique nonincorporated major employment and residential center within a rural area of the county made the special zoning designation necessary.

Malcolm Davis, representing the board of directors of the PenMar Development Corp., said his agency unanimously supports the rezoning request.

Joe Swope, representing the local branch of the Sierra Club, said his group felt there was not enough opportunity for public input on the rezoning plan. He said the plan was not available until last Friday and that members feared the rezoning could threaten the character of the largely wooded rural area around the fort.

The fort property is surrounded on three sides by conservation districts, the strictest in terms of allowed development, Arch said. On the fourth side, the land is zoned rural residential.

The planning commission and County Commissioners will accept written comment on the rezoning request for 10 days, after which the planning commission will make a recommendation to the County Commissioners.

Planning Commission Chairman Bert Iseminger said he expected his group to make its recommendation in November, and send it on to the commissioners for a vote.

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