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City might change zoning rules with off-street parking in mind

April 20, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A set of rule changes being considered by the Hagerstown City Council would require more off-street parking and give more guidance to the City Board of Zoning Appeals.

The changes - outlined for city officials in a 10-page document - were proposed as officials noticed problems with the city's zoning ordinance, City Planning Director Kathleen Maher said Tuesday.

The most substantial change is to the parking rules, Maher said.

"That's a big change," Maher said.

The rules will affect most new one- and two-family homes, as well as some existing buildings.

Maher said there has been a chronic problem with residents not having enough street parking, and part of that problem is made worse by new businesses.

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Under the proposed rules, in many cases, before a new business opens its doors in a residential district it will have to provide off-street parking.

Maher said another set of proposed changes will affect how one city board makes its decisions.

"There were some concerns that staff had" over some decisions by the City Board of Zoning Appeals, Maher said. The board, appointed by the mayor, interprets some city zoning rules.

In October, that zoning appeals board voted to allow a duplex home in a district that technically can only permit commercial buildings. In December, the city asked for a judicial review of the zoning appeals board's decision in Washington County Circuit Court.

Maher said the proposed changes would give the zoning appeals board more guidance, which could be helpful because the board is made up of volunteers who usually are not land-use experts.

In the meantime, the judicial review is not active, City Attorney John Urner said. He said the court has put the case on hold to allow for out-of-court resolution.

Other proposed changes include:

· Giving permission for several new types of businesses in some districts, including animal kennels, truck and motor vehicle rentals, vehicle impound lots, landfills and rubble fills.

· Changes to home-based business rules to fix a loophole that can allow a business in an apartment even if the person running the business doesn't live in that apartment.

The City Council is scheduled to officially introduce the changes in a vote next week, which would allow for the official adoption of the rules in a second vote next month.

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