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Zoning rulings upheld

May 23, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A judge upheld two 2001 county zoning amendments that effectively forced a county businessman to table plans for a new truck service station in Williamsport, according to a legal ruling filed Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court.

With that ruling, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell denied the main request in a February 2002 motion for declaratory judgment filed on behalf of trucking-business owner Donald M. Bowman and county businesses Bowman-Spielman LLC and The Bowman Group LLP, of which Bowman has majority ownership.

The request asked the court to declare invalid and illegal the new definitions of "truck stop" and "truck terminal" approved by the commissioners.

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McDowell denied the plaintiffs' other two requests as well, writing that the amendments apply to Bowman's plans for the new truck stop, as well as to his headquarters on Governor Lane Boulevard in Williamsport, where his trucking company has been based for more than 20 years.

Bowman had planned to build a trucking service station on nine acres of land at the intersection of Md. 63 and Md. 68 near the Interstate 81 overpass, he and his lawyer said in court testimony in April. The plans included a gas station for trucks and cars, as well as truck parking and a convenience store.

In a synopsis of the arguments presented to him in April, McDowell wrote that Paul Prodonovich, director of the county's Department of Permits and Inspections, approved the plans for the truck stop in August 2001. Before Bowman could begin developing the land, there was a citizen uproar about the possible construction, McDowell wrote.

By October 2001, the county had researched existing zoning codes, put the amendments up for public discussion and passed them, McDowell wrote.

McDowell wrote that while Bowman's lawyer argued that the facts didn't support why the commissioners would pass the law, he said there was evidence the laws were passed in good faith.

McDowell wrote the definitions described in the amendments came from a concern that the old definitions were outdated. Furthermore, the amendments came from the commissioners' "attention to ... the public welfare" relating to "hybrid travel centers' intense use, the potential for pollution" and impact on traffic and surrounding property, he wrote.

McDowell also wrote that he did not believe the amendments were targeted at Bowman, but could affect anyone with similar plans.

Contacted by phone Thursday, Bowman said, "It's not good news, but I won't really know until I read" the opinion. He declined to comment further.

John Urner, who represented Bowman and the corporate plaintiffs, said he had not seen the opinion and declined to comment.

William Schildt, who represented the commissioners, said, "It sounds like a clean sweep," but said he had not seen the opinion and declined further comment.

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