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Washington Co. Urban Growth Area rezoning nears completion

January 10, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — After years of consideration and three public hearings, a comprehensive rezoning of Washington County’s Urban Growth Area is nearing completion.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday made decisions on the final outstanding issues raised during a Dec. 13 hearing.

Once county staff members have revised the document to reflect those decisions, the rezoning will be ready to put to a final vote, county Planning and Zoning Director Stephen Goodrich said.

The Urban Growth Area, or UGA, rezoning would make broad changes to zoning in the roughly 35,000-acre growth area around Hagerstown, Williamsport and Funkstown. The changes are meant to encourage growth near existing infrastructure while protecting rural areas, Goodrich has said.

The commissioners’ decisions Tuesday included:
• At the request of two property owners along Rench Road south of Hagerstown, the UGA boundary will be redrawn so those farms and an adjoining property are outside the urban area.
Because there will be no designated “agriculture” zoning in the UGA, those farms had been slated to be rezoned “residential transition,” although agricultural use would still have been permitted.
Commissioners Terry Baker, Jeffrey A. Cline and William B. McKinley wanted to honor the owners’ preference for their land to be zoned for agriculture by moving the farms outside the boundary.
Commissioners John F. Barr and Ruth Anne Callaham were against that change, because it could limit future uses for the land and would affect a third property owner in addition to the two who made the request.

• At the request of neighboring property owners, a 6-acre property owned by Callas Contractors Inc. south of Longmeadow Road would be zoned “residential, suburban” instead of the “residential, multi-family” designation requested by the owner.

• At the owners’ request, the Meritus Medical Center property and the Mount Aetna Farms property owned by the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, or CHIEF, would be zoned “office, research and industry,” which allows for a broader range of uses than the “office, research and technology” designation proposed previously.

• Transferable development rights will not be incorporated into the initial UGA rezoning. However, the commissioners agreed to have a discussion about transferable development rights sometime before the next update of the county’s comprehensive plan.
“Sooner rather than later,” Baker said.

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