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Planners consider rezoning for campground

August 15, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION and JULIE GREENE

Washington County Planning Commission members are considering a rezoning request to allow a 60-site campground along Orchard Ridge Road east of Hancock that is drawing concern from area residents, the chief of the Hancock Volunteer Fire Co. and other officials, according to planning commission documents.

The campground, which is being proposed by Harold Walter, would provide space for tent camping and camping with travel trailers, motor homes and other types of camping vehicles, planning commission documents say.

Electric hookups would be provided to most camping sites at the facility north of Millstone Circle and sewage from the campsites would be handled by two septic systems, according to the documents. Water would be provided by an existing well, and another well is proposed near a planned clubhouse, the plans state.

The site is currently zoned as environmental conservation and the proposed zoning for the site is rural business-new, a classification that allows for recreation and tourism opportunities, according to the planning commission.

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Some residents who live near the planned campground spoke against the project during a planning commission public meeting Aug. 2 at the Washington County Courthouse. The chief of the Hancock Volunteer Fire Co. expressed concerns earlier about it.

Fire Chief Greg Yost said in planning commission documents that his department is opposed to the project because the fire department already has experienced mobile home and camper trailer fires that have spread or come very close to spreading to other trailers. Yost said he is concerned about fire threats at the campground, considering how close together the travel trailers would be.

"I do not see fire suppression mentioned anywhere in the documents. They talk about two wells, but that cannot support adequate fire suppression," Yost wrote in the documents.

Hagerstown attorney Jason Divelbiss, who represents Walter, said project officials will work with fire authorities to address their concerns. Divelbiss said his client might agree to keep camping sites further apart to reduce the possibility of a fire spreading.

Regarding water for fire suppression, Divelbiss mentioned the use of a proposed swimming pool at the campground that could provide about 30,000 gallons of water for firefighting. If fire suppression concerns remain, Divelbiss said, the number of camping sites possibly could be reduced.

In general, Divelbiss said he believes the area's rural nature is appropriate for the campground.

"We're going to be sensitive not to create a hazardous situation," Divelbiss said in a telephone interview.

Planning Commission Chairman George Anikis said in a telephone interview that he is concerned that a planned entrance to the campground on Orchard Ridge Road would have a limited sight distance because there is a curve in the road just before the entrance. Anikis said he worries about whether motorists would be able to pull safely out of the entrance and onto Orchard Ridge Road.

Anikis said the issue of the limited sight distance is "not a deal breaker" if it can be fixed.

The Washington County Engineering Department said the width of Orchard Ridge Road is inadequate and as a condition of site plan approval, the office will require that the road be widened to at least 20 feet for any portion less than that between the project entrance and Md. 615, planning commission documents say.

Divelbiss and Gene Hamilton, the project manager, said project officials are opposed to paying for widening Orchard Ridge Road because it would be cost-prohibitive. Hamilton said he wants to study projections on traffic that would be generated from the campground and then examine traffic issues.

The planning commission will make a recommendation to the Washington County Commissioners about whether the 40-acre site should be rezoned, Anikis said. The county commission will hold a public hearing about the proposal, Anikis said.

Anikis would not say how he thinks the planning commission might vote on the rezoning request.

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