Rural rezoning plan may be less restrictive

September 25, 2004|by TARA REILLY

After listening to recommendations from the Washington County Planning Commission and a special task force, the County Commissioners are considering making a portion of a rural rezoning plan less restrictive to development.

As originally written, the Comprehensive Rezoning of the Rural Areas plan set strict guidelines on the number of lots allowed in areas designated rural.

The commissioners, however, have proposed that rural landowners be guaranteed a certain number of lots before those guidelines apply to their land, Planning Director Mike Thompson said Friday.


Thompson said the proposal would allow rural landowners to subdivide more lots than the original rezoning plan allows. The number of guaranteed lots, known as lot exemptions, would depend on the size of a property.

The commissioners are expected to hold a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. on Monday in Courtroom 1 of the Washington County Courthouse.

Under the commissioners' proposal, owners of properties less than 50 acres would be allowed to subdivide three lots, owners of properties between 50 and 100 acres would be allowed to subdivide four lots and those who own more than 100 acres would be allowed to subdivide five lots.

The remainder of the land, once the guaranteed lots are subdivided, then would be subject to the stricter guidelines.

Under those guidelines, one home would be allowed for every remaining five acres in an agricultural zone. For example, a property owner with 100 acres left over in an agricultural zone once the guaranteed lots are subdivided 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 remaining acres in land zoned environmental conservation and one home per 30 remaining acres in preservation zones. Both designations are new.

About 250,000 rural acres would be rezoned, county officials have said.

The plan aims to direct growth to more appropriate areas, such as those that have public water and sewer.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson have said they opposed the lot exemptions and rezoning plan. Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and commissioners James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps support rezoning.

Dozens of opponents have said during two public hearings on the issue that the rezoning plan 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.

Munson, in an interview on Thursday, described the plan as "a bunch of baloney" and "rotten eggs." He said he agreed with the critics of the rezoning plan.

"I'm not interested at all," Munson said. "I'd like to see it stopped."

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