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Public meeting held on zoning plan

August 17, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

The Washington County Planning Department hosted a public meeting Thursday night to hear residents' comments about zoning in the county's urban growth areas.

The planning department is preparing to change land-use categories, or zones, in areas of the county that are designated for future development.

"We're asking citizens to give us their comments on how these areas should be zoned," said Steve Goodrich, chief senior planner with the county's planning department.

The county's urban areas are zoned to allow greater development at a higher density than rural parts of the county. Hagerstown, Funkstown and Williamsport are zoned to allow the most urban growth. The towns of Smithsburg, Boonsboro, Hancock and Clear Spring also are zoned for growth, though at a lesser density.

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Changes to the urban zones will be made to abide by the county's Comprehensive Plan, a document that guides county planners on future growth and development. The plan, which was revised in 2002, recommended zoning changes that would preserve the agricultural land and rural character of the county, Goodrich said.

The plan also recommended that development be concentrated in the county's designated growth areas. The planning department is gathering public input before it makes zoning changes in those areas, Goodrich said.

Goodrich said much of the arrangement of the county's growth areas, such as its major residential and commercial areas, will not change. Likewise, the department has no immediate plans to change the growth areas' boundaries, though that might happen when the county updates the Comprehensive Plan next year, Goodrich said.

"Right now, we're not really going to tinker with the boundaries," Goodrich said. "We're interested in rezoning the growth areas to encourage good development."

More than two dozen residents attended the meeting at Hagerstown Community College, though less than 10 spoke.

Several of the speakers were farmers whose land is inside the county's urban growth area.

Kurt Britner of Williamsport said when he decided to have his farmland zoned for residential development, he was limited to one house on every 1 1/2 acres. Britner said because of the low-density zoning, he will have to sell houses for about $500,000 each. He plans to build about 300 houses on his property.

"How does having that many half-a-million-dollar homes help the community? It doesn't. But that's what we're left with," Britner said.

Britner said a higher density zoning would have allowed him to build more affordable houses or town houses on smaller lots.

The planning department will hold a second public meeting Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at Williamsport High School.

Residents also can e-mail comments to askplanning@washco-md.net.

Goodrich said the planning department likely will hold additional public meetings in the municipalities before making recommendations for rezoning by the end of the year.




Public meeting



What: Washington County Planning Department public meeting on changes to zoning in the county's urban growth areas

When: Aug. 28, 7 p.m.

Where: Williamsport High School

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