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Boonsboro residents question proposed county land-use changes

August 19, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Jill Baker, a planner with Washington County, answers questions about Boonsboro town growth from people gathered Monday night at the Boonsboro Community Center.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — Residents continued to raise concerns about proposed new Washington County land-use regulations during a meeting Monday night at the Eugene C. Smith Community Center in Boonsboro.

Among the issues raised by some of the 45 people who turned out for the meeting was whether the proposed changes would result in property tax increases, or how property owners might be affected by right-of-way acquisitions for water and sewer lines for new development.

The proposed changes would be in what is referred to as Town Growth Areas, which are just outside the corporate boundaries of Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Hancock and Smithsburg.

Land-use changes are being proposed for those areas, because town and county officials anticipate they will see growth in the future.

County Planner Jill Baker gave an overview of the proposed rezoning changes, allowing those in attendance to comment on the proposals.

One of the speakers was Wayne Bowman, who runs farming operations on 28 acres along Md. 66.

Under the proposals, Bowman’s land would be rezoned from agricultural to a residential transition zone. He objected to having his land rezoned, saying he has been farming on it for 30 years and plans to keep doing so.

Bowman raised concerns about possible rights of way being created across his property for new water and sewer lines, and whether he would be paid for those rights of way.

Baker said after the meeting that right-of-way acquisitions happen all over the county.

For people who have concerns about the rezoning, Baker encouraged them to let county officials know.

Bowman said after the meeting that he plans to consult with an attorney and write a letter to county officials outlining his concerns.

“I’ll go to the (Washington County Board of) Commissioners,” said Bowman, who vowed to “keep fighting.”

Steve Morgan, who lives on Appletown Road just outside the Boonsboro town limits, said his property would also be rezoned from agriculture to a residential transition zone under the proposed changes.

Morgan said he could not understand why his land would have to be rezoned since he is surrounded by farmland, which he said will not be sold.

But Morgan said he felt more comfortable about the proposed changes after talking to Baker, who convinced him that tax hikes are unlikely due to the rezoning.

Various scenarios under the proposed zoning were discussed during the meeting, including whether a farmer might be forced to hook onto new water and sewer lines that are extended past his or her property.
 
But Baker said that a farmer generally would not be forced to hook up to new utilities, unless public health issue arises, such as a failing septic system on the  property.

If the farmer decided to create a building lot to generate some revenue, then the he or she would have to extend water and sewer to a new house on the lot, Baker said.

Baker has said that comments collected from the public will be delivered to the Washington County Planning Commission as it considers potential land-use changes.

Comments may be submitted to the county until Sept. 13. The commissioners have the final say on the proposals.

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