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City council supports proposed changes to zoning ordinance

June 05, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Following a public presentation, all five members of the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday said they support proposed text amendments to the zoning ordinance intended to better control the number of apartment units in the city.

The council members were polled following Tuesday's meeting.

At the May 21 county meeting, Councilman Kristin Aleshire suggested a moratorium on the alteration of existing buildings to create apartments. Council members Lewis Metzner and Penny May Nigh said they also supported the idea.

But at Tuesday's meeting, Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Everhart told the council that City Attorney John Urner has said the city can't impose a moratorium unless there is some kind of public emergency.

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The city can, however, restrict alterations through text amendments.

At its May 29 meeting, the Hagerstown Planning Commission agreed to take to public hearing proposed changes intended to do that.

The public hearing is scheduled for the July 10 Planning Commission meeting. The Hagerstown City Council would have to approve the changes for them to become law.

Aleshire said he wants the city to approve the changes as quickly as legally possible in order to remove a "window of opportunity" for property owners to add apartment units before the text amendments take effect.

Everhart said she does not anticipate a rush of changes to properties.

The city's planning department has said that many property owners are converting houses and apartments into many apartments, which is turning neighborhoods into eyesores. Planning officials said the property owners create several apartments in a dwelling so they can collect more rent.

Aleshire said he has been getting calls from people who have seen problems of excess trash and insufficient parking because buildings were broken up into apartments.

Planning officials described the proposed text amendments as follows:

-- Single-family, two-family and multi-family dwellings that were in existence prior to the adoption of the zoning ordinance in 1977 that are considered non-conforming uses could not be altered for the purpose of creating additional residential units.

-- In the C3 downtown commercial central district, buildings constructed for industrial or commercial uses that are converted into residential units would be exempted from off-street parking requirements provided there is adequate off-street parking available for use by the building within 500 feet.

-- In the C3 downtown commercial central district, existing residential buildings should not be altered, modified or subdivided for the purpose of creating additional residential units.

-- In the R2 moderate-density residential district, multi-family dwellings should no longer be permitted except for apartment buildings existing at the time the text amendment is enacted.

-- In the R4 mixed-use residential district, existing residential buildings should not be altered or modified for the purpose of creating additional residential units unless two parking spaces per units for all the units in the building can be provided or created in the rear yard of the property or in the rear yard of contiguous property under perpetual easement.

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