Proposed 'preserve' raises safety concerns

December 04, 2003|by TARA REILLY

A Washington County Planning Commission member said he fears the safety of some residents might be at risk if a proposed site where fowl would be released into the air and shot opens near a new development on Mapleville Road.

Other members had similar concerns and said the plan lacked details.

"Somebody's going to get hurt," Planning Commission member George Anikis said at a planning commission meeting Monday. "This is more dangerous than a firing range. A firing range is a controlled area."

Anikis said if the "wildlife preserve" opens, shooters would be firing into the air at birds rather than at stationary targets.


Joseph Michael of Boonsboro submitted a site plan to the planning commission for a "wildlife preserve" on 137 acres known as Whistling Hill on Mapleville Road off U.S. 40, planning officials said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division on Oct. 28 issued Michael a permit for a noncommercial regulated shooting area on the property. The permit is effective through June 30, 2004.

According to the permit, hunters would be able to shoot quail, pheasant, chukar partridge, Hungarian partridge, waterfowl and mallard ducks at the site.

Associate planner Jill Baker said Wednesday county regulations do not contain a definition for a wildlife preserve, but former Permits and Inspections Administrator Paul Prodonovich ruled that one would be allowed on the property, which is zoned agricultural.

She said Prodonovich made his determination by finding the definition in a standard dictionary, which is county policy in such instances.

The planning commission would have to approve the site plan before Michael could receive a county zoning permit to operate the shooting area.

Anikis said Wednesday he would not support Michael's plan until he had more specifics on where hunting would take place on the property.

He said he has concerns about the safety of residents who would live in the new, 47-unit Meadows Green subdivision, because the setback between the properties is 50 feet. Meadows Green borders the proposed shooting area.

Ankis said two or three homes are under construction in Meadows Green. The homes will cost about $500,000, he said.

A setback is a minimum amount of space required between a lot line and a building line.

Under state law, a person must be at least 450 feet, or 150 yards, from an occupied home in order to discharge a weapon, Anikis said.

"Shotgun shells can travel 450 feet," he said.

He said most people associate a wildlife preserve with a place where animals will not be shot. He said places that offer the type of hunting planned for the site usually are called "game farms."

Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said at the Monday meeting that he shared Anikis' concerns about safety and details of the plan. He said hunters might not be "looking at where they're shooting."

Planning commission members on Monday tabled a vote on the site plan, saying they wanted more information on the proposed wildlife preserve and that they wanted to visit the property.

Planning commission member Bernie Moser said at the meeting that the issue at hand might be one of allowing a subdivision in a rural area, rather than the other way around.

He said the county recently adopted a Right To Farm Ordinance, which informs homebuyers of properties near farms that they should expect noise, odors and other farming incoveniences to occur.

"Is the right to hunt going to be the next issue to come up?" Moser said.

Michael, an assistant Washington County state's attorney, said in a phone message that his surveyor, Fred Frederick of Frederick Seibert & Associates Inc., would issue a statement on the matter.

Frederick did not return two phone calls placed to his office Wednesday afternoon.

Jim Proakis, a representative of D R Horton Inc. of Rockville, Md., which owns the Meadows Green subdivision, did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

Anikis said Monday that he's never hunted in a "preserve" that's so close to homes.

"Show me another preserve that's got houses as close as this one," he said. "That's just crazy."

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