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Zoning for the future

August 19, 2005

Washington County Commissioner William Wivell on Tuesday demonstrated his frustration with the county board's decision to enact rural rezoning, saying he felt the county was getting ready to "screw up" something else.

We hope, however, that just because rural rezoning wasn't done perfectly that the commissioners won't try to do a better job on their next project.

That project will be a look at the zoning inside the urban and town growth areas. It will probably take more than a year.

It's important for several reasons. If the densities allowed now are too great, local infrastructure - schools, roads and water and sewer service - could be overwhelmed.

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That said, if there are not some areas where additional density will be allowed, then it will be impossible to add transferrable development rights, also known as TDRs, to the rural rezoning plan.

TDRs would allow people with acreage, including farmers, to sell their development rights to others, who could use them to add greater density in places such as the Urban Growth Area around Hagerstown.

Wivell's frustration with the last rezoning effort is understandable. The best The Herald-Mail could say about it editorially is that is flawed, but better than the wide-open zoning plan that was the best compromise the county could make in 1973, but inadequate to the community's needs in 2005.

Growth is inevitable, but how it is managed will determine whether the county is ugly and unworkable in a way that deters businesses from bringing the better-paying jobs needed here.

How growth should be managed will be a campaign issue in 2006, as it should be.

But between now and then the incumbents need to concentrate not on the defeats of the past, but on how they can fix what is flawed for the future.

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