Washington County Board of Commissioners briefs

June 21, 2012

County girds for new septic law

Washington County is discussing how to adjust to a new state law on septic systems.

The Maryland General Assembly passed the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 this year. It establishes four tiers, or types of land, and regulations on whether septic systems or public sewers can be used in each category.

Residential development will be allowed based on the restrictions on the tier a project is in.

Jill Baker, a senior planner for the county, explained the tiers on Tuesday for the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Stephen T. Goodrich, the county’s planning director, said the law takes effect on July 1. Counties must adopt a tier system in their comprehensive plans by Dec. 31.

He said the consequences are “not well defined” if a county does not comply.

There is an Oct. 1 deadline for projects to get a “grandfather” exemption from the tier system, as long as they are approved within 18 months, according to a memorandum Goodrich prepared.


Commissioners President Terry Baker said he wants a few weeks to process the changes before the county decides what to do.

The county has some leeway. For example, it can change its definition for a “minor subdivision” from five lots or fewer to as much as seven lots or fewer.

A summary from the Maryland Association of Counties said: “After December 31, 2012, a county may not authorize a major residential subdivision on septic systems unless it has adopted a series of four land use tiers. If a county chooses not to adopt the tiers, it is limited to subdivisions on public sewer or minor subdivisions on septic systems.”

The county plans to contact as many local developers as possible to tell them about the imminent changes.

State easement priority list approved

The Washington County Board of Commissioner on Tuesday approved a list prioritizing the properties eligible for a state easement program.

The county can forward up to five recommendations to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation program.

A county memorandum about the easement program said the county’s rankings, by law, have to remain secret, but the list of applicants can be made public.

There are 16 property owners on the county’s list. The properties range from about 33 acres to about 373 acres.

Juniors volleyball team recognized

A Washington County Juniors Volleyball team was congratulated on Tuesday for winning an invitation to a Junior National Championship competition in Columbus, Ohio, from June 29 to July 2.

The under-13 Twisters finished second in April in a Chesapeake Regional Volleyball Open Division, according to a team letter to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Most of the players on the team attended the commissioners’ meeting, posed for pictures and received county pins.

One team member who was absent, Sydney Davis, was diagnosed with leukemia in April and is being treated, according to the letter from the team.

Beaver Creek Road rezoning heard

The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday held a public hearing on a request to rezone 20519 Beaver Creek Road from Rural Business Existing and Rural Village to entirely Rural Village.

Cornerstone Community Church of Hagerstown is hoping to open a church there.

Cornerstone Community Church, formerly known as Hagerstown Grace Brethren Church, had been at 837 Spruce St., but sold the property last year to Head Start of Washington County.

The 3.28-acre Beaver Creek Road property the church hopes to use previously was the site of the Homeplace Everlasting shop.

Fred Frederick of Frederick, Seibert & Associates, who applied for the zoning change on behalf of the church, said the Rural Village zone would match the neighborhood.

The commissioners did not raise any objections to the request.

Assistant County Attorney Kirk C. Downey said he would prepare a decision on behalf of the commissioners.

Commissioners approve condo project

A developer’s pledge Tuesday to build a condominium project in three stages satisfied school overcrowding concerns raised by the Washington County Board of Commissioners, but one Smithsburg resident was not pleased.

Based on pupil-generation rates, the South Pointe Condominiums project along East Oak Ridge Drive could add about 44 students to the three local elementary, middle and high schools around it, according to a Washington County Public Schools estimate. Another nine could end up in a school for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

The figure could increase slightly. The estimates were based on 98 units and the project is now proposed at 102 units.

Of those three schools, one — South Hagerstown High School — is considered beyond its state-rated capacity, prompting a review under the county’s adequate public facilities ordinance.

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