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Public has chance to raise concerns about land-use policy changes

July 24, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Washington County residents will have another opportunity Tuesday to weigh in on broad changes proposed for the land-use policy in the area around Hagerstown, Williamsport and Funkstown.

The county’s proposed comprehensive rezoning of this “urban growth area” is the subject of a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hager Hall Conference and Event Center on Dual Highway.

A previous public hearing on the UGA rezoning drew hundreds of people to Kepler Theater in October, leading officials to extend the hearing over a second evening.

The proposed changes are intended to encourage growth and development in the roughly 35,000 acres closest to existing urban areas, where facilities and services can be extended or expanded most economically, planning officials have said.

The proposed changes complement zoning changes for the rural areas of Washington County that were adopted in 2005.

After the October hearing, the Washington County Planning Commission agreed to eliminate two of the most controversial proposed changes, a five-mile-radius wildlife mitigation area around the airport and the division of the current Highway Interchange 1 zoning designation into commercial versus industrial districts.

Another controversial change — forbidding new animal husbandry facilities in the UGA — was nixed even earlier in response to negative outcry from the public.

As it stands, agriculture, including new and existing animal husbandry facilities, will be allowed as a principal permitted use throughout the UGA.

One outstanding issue is the question of Transferable Development Rights, or TDRs.

Some, including a citizens’ advisory committee, have called for TDRs to be incorporated into the rezoning, and protested their omission as a lost opportunity. Under a TDR system, landowners who wanted to take advantage of more dense zoning in the urban growth area would have to purchase those development rights from landowners in rural areas who lost development rights in previous zoning changes.

The proposed UGA text and map amendments, as well as staff and advisory reports, are available on the county’s website at www.washco-md.net/public_info/ugahearing2.shtm.

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If you go...

What: Public hearing on Urban Growth Area Comprehensive Rezoning and UGA Boundary Adjustments
When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Hager Hall Conference and Event Center, 901 Dual Highway

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