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Group wants moratorium on truck plazas

April 20, 2001

Group wants moratorium on truck plazas



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Opponents of a "travelers plaza" D.M. Bowman Inc. proposes building in Williamsport are calling for a moratorium on such facilities, saying county rules governing them are not clear and are not followed consistently.

They also contend there is a proliferation of the facilities in Washington County, said Toni Shrader, a spokeswoman for the opponents.

The Bowman proposal calls for construction of a fuel stop/truck plaza at the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Md. 63 and Md. 68 and Interstate 81. It would be built on 9.1 acres zoned highway interchange 1.

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The facility would include a convenience store, a car wash and about 150 parking spaces, including 75 for trucks.

The travelers plaza designation also applies to what is more commonly known as a truck stop, although the plaza caters to motorists as well as to truck drivers.

Opponents question why the Bowman proposal and a similar nearby project are being treated differently. They say both are essentially the same.

The Pilot Travel Center at Greencastle Pike/Md. 63 and Interstate 70 was approved by the county around 1999, said Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich.

He said Pilot was not designated a travelers plaza and did not require a special exception by the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals. The Bowman project did receive the travelers plaza designation, so it requires an exception and a public hearing.

Bowman withdrew its application for an exception in June after opponents said they would challenge it at the public hearing.

Prodonovich said Bowman sought the exception on his recommendation. Although it wasn't clear if the facility as originally proposed would require an exception, he suggested asking for one in case it was later determined to be needed.

A revised application by Bowman could lead him to conclude no special exception is needed and that it is not a travelers plaza, he said.

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell asked county department heads to answer questions asked of him by truck stop opponents. All five commissioners have met individually with the opponents in recent weeks.

Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas told the commissioners in an April 19 memo that they can impose a temporary moratorium on travelers plazas. However, a compelling need must be shown because it imposes a limitation on property owners' rights, he said.

Douglas disagreed with Shrader's assertion that a moratorium is justified while the county clears up its language and practices regarding projects of this type, Douglas said. He thinks existing county language is clear.

He also does not think the contention of a proliferation of travelers plaza would justify a moratorium, he said.

Wivell said he does not favor a moratorium at this time. Someone would have to prove to him that it's a good idea for the government to prohibit a specific class of business, he said.

Shrader said a moratorium will probably be discussed by opponents of the fuel center at a meeting tonight at 7 at Old Downsville School across from the Downsville General Store.

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