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Building suspension extended

October 22, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

This year's rainy weather wasn't enough for the Washington County Commissioners to lift the ban on major residential development in rural areas.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to extend the growth moratorium for up to a year. The moratorium would have expired on Oct. 29.

County Commissioner John C. Munson voted against the extension.

The commissioners said they extended the moratorium on major rural residential development as a way to control growth until they vote on the proposed rezoning of rural land.

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A major development is defined by the county as one that consists of six or more dwelling units.

The proposed rezoning would reduce the number of homes allowed in agricultural areas.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting that the commissioners also wanted to make sure revisions to the county's other growth-related policies are completed before the moratorium was lifted.

The county is working to revise its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which helps ensure schools and infrastructure are capable of handling growth.

The previous board of commissioners adopted the moratorium in October 2002 for a year to keep the water supply from drying up in the midst of a drought.

They also said it would prevent developers from rushing to submit subdivision plans before the county's zoning ordinance was rewritten as part of the Comprehensive Plan.

The former commissioners adopted the Comprehensive Plan, which aims to direct growth from rural areas to designated growth areas, in August 2002. The current board of commissioners is in the process of rezoning the land so the changes can take place.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell recommended Tuesday that the moratorium be extended, saying he thought it would be at least six more months before the commissioners vote on the proposed rezoning.

"There's a lot of work here that needs to be done," Wivell said.

"Until that's finished, I think that's a good reason to continue it," Jim Laird, president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County (CPWC), said after the meeting.

Laird said CPWC was pleased with the commissioners' decision.

Wivell said the commissioners still must discuss forming a task force to study the proposed rezoning and come up with recommendations on what may or may not need to be changed.

Opponents of the proposed rezoning of rural areas have asked that such a task force be formed.

Before Wivell's recommendation, Munson made a motion to let the moratorium expire. The motion died for lack of a second.

Munson said it would be unfair to extend the moratorium because the public originally was told that it would be in effect for only a year.

"Let it die. I think we owe it to the public to be honest with them," Munson said. "If we don't, the public won't forget. I guarantee you."

Debi Turpin, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Washington County, said the organization would not have a problem with the moratorium being extended as long as the commissioners take another look at the rezoning proposal.

Builders, developers, those in the real estate business, landowners and farmers have said they oppose the proposed rezoning, in part, because it would devalue land.

"If the County Commissioners intend to re-examine the downzoning of the rural areas and appoint a task force to look at it to address all the concerns ... then we would be hard-pressed to find fault with them," Turpin said. "However, if the commissioners do not intend to take the time to address the issue, then we would have a problem with it being in place."

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