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Residents speak out about rezoning plan

October 19, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - During a public hearing Monday, a speaker compared the Washington County Planning Commission's proposal to rezone rural areas of the county to the claims of weapons of mass destruction that led to the war in Iraq.

Daniel Moeller of Rohrersville, the person making the comparison, was one of about 30 people who spoke at the hearing on the county's proposed rural rezoning plan, which would limit development in rural areas.

About 100 people attended the hearing at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College.

"It has been said that bad beginnings lead to bad endings. For example, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution led to the Vietnam War, and claims of weapons of mass destruction led to the Iraq war. The Planning Commission's bad beginning has brought us to a bad ending - the rezoning of the rural areas of the county," Moeller said, reading from a written statement.

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He said he was one of the people who told the Planning Commission that its plans were "fatally flawed. Our concerns were never taken seriously."

While he was skeptical the Washington County Commissioners would pay more attention to what landowners are saying, "I have been pleasantly surprised." Exemptions being considered by the commissioners are a good step in the right direction, he said.

Other speakers also were critical of the plan and its impact on landowners.

Eleanor Funk of Maugansville said owners of rural property should have more control of their land than the rezoning plan allows.

Funk alluded to the opposition of Commissioners John Munson and William Wivell to the plan in which about 250,000 rural acres would be rezoned.

"When you five can't even agree, something needs to be reviewed again," Funk said.

During prior public hearings, dozens of opponents have said 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.

After Monday's hearing, Wivell said the plan fails to adequately compensate landowners for their loss of equity.

The Washington County Commissioners are tentatively scheduled to discuss the plan again at the Oct. 26 commissioners meeting, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Some of the speakers at Monday's public hearing alluded to a proposal that would make a portion of the plan less restrictive to development.

As originally written, the Comprehensive Rezoning of the Rural Areas plan set strict guidelines for 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 has said the proposal would allow rural landowners to subdivide more lots than the original rezoning plan would allow. The number of guaranteed lots, known as lot exemptions, would depend on the size of a property, Thompson has said.

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