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Project's zoning change approved

In a meeting that drew criticism from some residents, the Washington County Commissioners OK's a rezoning request for a Marsh Pi

In a meeting that drew criticism from some residents, the Washington County Commissioners OK's a rezoning request for a Marsh Pi

March 14, 2003|by TARA REILLY

The Washington County Commissioners on Thursday went against the recommendation of the Planning Commission and approved a rezoning request that would allow a nearly 400-unit residential development in the Marsh Pike area.

The meeting drew criticism from residents, who said they were given less than a day's notice that a vote was going to take place.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and commissioners Doris J. Nipps and John C. Munson voted for the rezoning of 97.27 acres from agricultural to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation with little discussion.


The land is north of the Marsh Pike and Leitersburg Pike (Md. 60) intersection.

Developer Paul Crampton requested the PUD to build 267 townhouses, duplexes and single-family homes, along with a 126-unit retirement center.

A PUD typically allows for a mixture of housing types and, in some cases, commercial areas within a development plan.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell voted against the development, stating he wanted to respect the recommendation made March 3 by the Planning Commission.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval abstained from the vote because he lives near the proposed development, he said.

The vote allows Crampton to continue work on the proposed development, but he must still receive final approval on the development plan, Nipps said Thursday night.

"It was just a change in zoning. It was not an approval for the development," Nipps said. "Paul will have to submit plans."

Munson, Nipps and Snook said they supported the request because the agricultural zoning designation might have allowed development they thought would be unsuitable for the area.

In her motion in favor of the PUD, Nipps said the agricultural zoning classification allows many types of development, including mobile homes, wineries, hospitals, churches and schools.

Planning Commission members said they voted to recommend that the County Commissioners deny the PUD request because it would be incompatible with the area, overcrowd schools and increase traffic congestion.

Residents of the Marsh Pike area opposed the proposed development for similar reasons.

Resident Kay Marschner said Thursday night she was upset because residents weren't given enough notice of the meeting. She said some people were notified on Wednesday that a vote would happen, while others still have no idea it took place.

"I was extremely disappointed that there was basically no notice that this was going to be on the agenda, and they pretty much disregarded the Planning Commission's work," Marcshner said. "It really seemed to me it was orchestrated."

Resident Karen Milani said that not only did the commissioners ignore the Planning Commission's recommendation, but they also sneaked in the vote.

"It's offensive, because that's not the democratic way to do things," Milani said. "They should be kicked out of office."

Milani said she found out about the meeting through a neighbor at about 9 or 10 p.m. Wednesday.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said the commissioners had to vote Thursday in order to meet a deadline outlined in the county's Zoning Ordinance. The ordinance required the commissioners to vote within 60 days after the public hearing on the issue was held, he said. That hearing took place in January.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the 60-day deadline was Thursday. Shoop, however, said he put the PUD vote on the agenda last week after realizing the deadline was approaching, but the agenda wasn't published until Wednesday.

Neither Shoop nor Douglas gave an explanation about why the public wasn't informed of the meeting earlier.

But Douglas said the commissioners would have preferred not to vote Thursday, but the deadline forced them to.

"That doesn't cut it for me," Milani said. "That's not a legitimate reason."

How they voted
The Washington County Commissioners on Thursday approved a Planned Urban Development zoning change for 97.27 acres in the Marsh Pike area. The land had been zoned agricultural.

The rezoning allows developer Paul Crampton to move forward with plans to build a nearly 400-unit development on the property at the intersection of Marsh and Leitersburg pikes.

Here's how the commissioners voted:

Yes: Snook, Nipps, Munson

No: Wivell

Abstained: Kercheval

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