Group may be formed to study growth plan

November 18, 2003|by TARA REILLY

The majority of the Washington County Commissioners said Monday they support forming a task force to study a county proposal that would limit growth in rural areas.

The task force idea was discussed during a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and the Washington County Planning Commission.

Some residents who oppose the county's proposal to reduce the number of homes allowed in rural areas through rezoning have asked the commissioners to create the task force to recommend changes to the plan.

Opponents have said during two public hearings on the issue that the proposed rezoning would decrease land values and "rob" landowners and farmers of their equity - money they were counting on for retirement purposes or if they hit rough financial times.


Under the plan, one home would be allowed for every five acres of land with an agricultural zoning. For example, a property owner with 100 acres in an agricultural zone would be able to build 20 dwelling units. Currently, one home per acre is allowed in the agricultural zone.

The plan would allow one home per 20 acres in land zoned environmental conservation and one home per 30 acres in preservation zones. Both designations are new.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said if a task force were formed, its only charge should be to determine whether the equity of a property would be affected by the plan.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he thought the task force should be small and include average citizens.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner Doris J. Nipps also said they would support forming a task force.

Before the meeting with the commissioners, the Planning Commission met for about an hour to talk about the proposed rezoning.

Planning Commission members George Anikis and Donald Ardinger said they thought a task force should consist of five or six members and be given a specific charge.

Anikis said he didn't think a large task force would accomplish much, while Ardinger questioned whether a task force would be necessary. Ardinger said he thought a task force would be created for political reasons, rather than an avenue for "getting something done."

"I'm not sure ... a task force is going to do a whole lot to the final product," he said.

"The people that want to be on the task force have their own agenda for being on it," Ardinger said.

He suggested to the commissioners that they make sure those interested in sitting on a task force know it will require several meetings and a lot of time.

"I think they need to be told this is not going to be a once-a-month thing," Ardinger said. "Make it tough on them."

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