Residents unhappy about possible prohibition of animal facilities

July 02, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

Washington County residents spoke out Thursday night against proposed zoning ordinance changes that would prohibit new animal husbandry facilities in the roughly 35,000-acre Urban Growth Area around Hagerstown and called for additional review of proposed land uses within five miles of the airport.

The changes are part of a comprehensive rezoning of the Urban Growth Area that was the subject of an informational meeting Thursday night at Hagerstown Community College. A second informational meeting is scheduled for July 21.

About 30 people, some of whom were planning staff and planning commission members, attended the meeting.

Steve Goodrich, Washington County's chief senior planner for comprehensive planning, explained that the zoning changes are intended to implement the goals of the county's comprehensive plan, particularly its focus on concentrating development in designated growth areas.

As part of the comprehensive rezoning, about 9,000 acres within the growth area currently zoned for agriculture would be given new zoning designations, Goodrich said.


Agriculture would remain a principal permitted use in many of the districts, but new animal husbandry facilities -- structures used for housing, breeding or managing the waste of farm animals -- would be prohibited, Goodrich said.

During a comment period after Goodrich's presentation, Austin Abraham, owner of a small farm east of Hagerstown, said he didn't think farmers were aware of the significant restrictions being proposed.

He said the restriction on new animal husbandry facilities would affect a large farmer who wants to switch from crop farming to animal husbandry, a child who wants to raise a goat for 4H or a retiree who has 10 acres and wants to raise a horse and build a stable.

"These are major, significant changes to those of us that have farms and do farming inside this area," Abraham said.

Another proposed change that drew comments was the creation of an "airport hazardous wildlife attractant management district," in which any proposed land use would be reviewed for its potential to attract birds or other wildlife hazardous to aircraft operations. The proposed text calls for the airport director to advise the planning commission about such hazards.

Goodrich said that change was designed to address safety issues based on recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration and that FAA funding could be affected if local governments ignore FAA recommendations. He said the area included in that proposed management district was "huge" -- about five miles around the airport -- and includes much of the city of Hagerstown.

During the comment period, Tom Berry of Rohrersville said the FAA document he read described an even larger review area and called for restrictions on a wide variety of uses, including landfills, composting operations, agricultural production and golf courses.

"One of the things I'd like for the committee to consider is, don't let the FAA do our zoning for us," Berry said.

He called wildlife hazards "not that big of a problem," saying there had been only a little over 1,000 bird strikes in Maryland in the last 19 years.

The meeting also drew comments from Dominick and Paul Perini, who own land near the airport, about the proposal to change that land from a more permissive Highway Interchange zoning district to an Industrial Restricted district, which they said was more limiting.

Comments on the rezoning plan may be sent by mail to the Planning Commission in the Washington County Administrative Annex at 80 W. Baltimore St., Hagerstown, MD 21742 or by e-mail to

If you go...

What: Second informational meeting about the proposed comprehensive rezoning in Washington County's Urban Growth Area

When: July 21 at 7 p.m.

Where: Springfield Middle School, 334 Sunset Ave. in Williamsport

On the Web:

View the proposed changes at (click on Urban Growth Area Rezoning under Latest County News)

Editor's note: This story was edited Friday, July 2, to make changes in the sixth and 11th paragraphs.

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