Drought won't restrict housing permits

March 18, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI and DAN KULIN

Hagerstown and Washington County officials say the drought is not causing them to consider imposing a moratorium on new housing developments, although that could change if conditions worsen.

Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop said there are no plans to refrain from issuing permits for new homes due to lack of precipitation.

That would be only a consideration if the precipitation level remains low, County Board of Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

"At this point it is nothing to be alarmed about," Snook said.

Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said if the drought continues or worsens the Mayor and City Council may have to look into water conservation measures.


But Zimmerman said stopping new connections to the city water system "wouldn't be the first option looked at."

"You limit construction when you know there is a long-term supply problem, and that is not an issue for us," he said.

A decision to stop issuing new water service connections would be determined by the water plant's ability to serve new customers, not by a drought, Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said.

The city, which draws water from the Potomac River, has an adequate water supply even with the drought conditions, he said.

That is the case as well in parts of Frederick County, Md., including the City of Frederick.

Although Frederick halted new development and annexations in March 2001, the city would have been forced to impose the moratorium regardless of the drought, city spokeswoman Jeanette Eleff said. The problem in Frederick is the state-imposed limit on how much the city can draw from the Monocacy River, she said.

"Our projected commitments for water for future (developments) is more than we can draw from our sources," Eleff said.

In the Point of Rocks and Windsor Knolls areas in Frederick County new development has been stopped since 1999, said Michael Marschner, director of the county's Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management.

The restrictions came about because not enough water could be brought to those areas because of insufficient water treatment or delivery systems, he said.

"Moratoriums are necessary when you find deficiencies in the system, not droughts," Marschner said.

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