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Concerns aired about proposed zoning in Urban Growth Area

July 22, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

WILLIAMSPORT -- Concerns continued to be raised during a public meeting Wednesday night about proposed new land-use regulations in the county's Urban Growth Area.

The proposed new rezoning called for in the county's 2002 comprehensive plan reflects long-term goals for land use, including a desire to concentrate growth in certain places and protect others from development, county officials said.

The Urban Growth Area is a designated area around Hagerstown, Williamsport and Funkstown where development is encouraged.

Some restrictions on agriculture are proposed in the urban growth boundary and the changes are causing concern among some farmers and other residents in the county.

Concerns were raised during a public meeting Wednesday night at Springfield Middle School, the second public meeting on the proposals.

No new animal husbandry facilities may be built in the urban growth boundary under the proposals, but existing facilities can be expanded.

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Jim Weddle, who runs a cattle and crop farm south of Funkstown in the urban growth boundary, told Steve Goodrich, Washington County's chief senior planner for comprehensive planning, that he wants to tear down a barn on his farm and build a new one.

Weddle wanted to know if he would be allowed to complete the project under the proposed new regulations.

Goodrich could not say for sure if Weddle would be able to tear down a barn and build a new one under the proposed new laws.

"This is how specific we need to get before you do anything," Weddle told Goodrich.

John Shank pointed to a map showing a section of land in the urban growth boundary that Shank said was strictly farmland.

Shank said he could not see the need to put more restrictions on farmers in the area when the land is not going to be needed for development for 20 to 30 years.

Goodrich said after the meeting that 20 years is going to come quickly.

Shank said he fears there will be "piecemeal development" on the land and warehouses will pop up on main roads, creating new road maintenance issues for the county.

Goodrich said there would be an overall plan for that section of land.

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 at the airport. The proposed text calls for the airport director to advise the planning commission about such hazards.

There was a fear Wednesday night about the airport having control over zoning in the county, but Goodrich emphasized that airport officials would only advise county planning officials on projects.

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