LEITERSBURG, Md. — The Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co. is planning to build a new station.
The department hopes to move from its current home at 21431 Leiter St. to a parcel it purchased last year less than a mile away.
Milton A. Bloom III, the department's president, said the department has talked for at least 10 years about building a new station because the current one is cramped and outdated.
Initially, the plan was to build a new station on the same land on which the current station sits, but that didn't work, he said.
Instead, the department purchased 21131 Leitersburg Pike last year from Stanley R. Neal for $136,300, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation property records.
The department's first attempt to build a six-bay station on its new property hit a snag.
The station, as designed, needed a variance. Washington County's zoning ordinance requires a 50-foot right side yard setback, but the station would have had only a 30-foot setback.
The department requested a variance so the building could be placed in a way that all six of its vehicles could pull straight onto Leitersburg Pike.
On Nov. 30, the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals denied the variance request 5-0.
In a written opinion issued later, the board said the department didn't prove a hardship — all of its emergency vehicles still had access to Leitersburg Pike and a different layout would have had little effect on response times.
The opinion says, "the need for the variance was founded upon the convenience of the Appellant, and not upon any unique or inherent characteristics of the property that would unreasonably prevent its use for a permitted purpose. Thus, denial of this variance will not do substantial injustice to the Appellant."
The Board of Zoning Appeals noted that the fire department said it still could build a new station on the property without the variance.
Bloom said that is correct.
He said the department will have new plans drawn, in which the station will be turned sideways, meeting the setback requirements. He didn't know when the plans would be ready.
The department will have to submit its plans to the planning commission for review.
Bloom said the current station is at least 60 years old and has no bunk rooms in which fire department members can stay.
The department originally thought it would build a new station on the same site as the current station on Leiter Street.
Bloom said the department paid about $43,000 to have an architect draw up the original plan, with a second floor for bunk rooms and an elevator.
The cost of the project was estimated at about $2.1 million, more than the department could afford, he said.
The department also realized that it had nowhere to keep its vehicles if it rebuilt on the current site, he said.
Don Tapley, who lives near the proposed new station site and attended the Nov. 30 BZA meeting, said he doesn't see how a fire department could build a station in a residential neighborhood.
He said he realizes the county commissioners approve or change county zoning laws, but he thinks the fire department should have alerted neighbors of its plans as soon as it purchased the property.
If he had known he might live near a fire station, he might not have moved into his house five years ago, Tapley said.
"You don't think about it until this comes up," he said.