St. Mary's Adopts New Zoning, Talks Emergency Communication Issues

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St. Mary's Adopts New Zoning, Talks Emergency Communication Issues

LEONARDTOWN - 8/31/2010

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By Carrie Griffin Munn

The St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners met Tuesday, August 31 and adopted the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance in a 4-to-1 vote. Commissioner Larry Jarboe brought forth two issues: the proposed slaughter house in Mechanicsville and a request to deny adult entertainment businesses in development districts, namely Lexington Park. He offered up a petition with over 300 signatures, asking for a 1,000-foot buffer around the slaughterhouse site.

While Commissioner Dan Raley said, “I understand the concern about the slaughterhouse and feel we owe it to everyone concerned to do it right,” he opted to bring it back as a text amendment rather than delay the adoption of the Zoning Ordinance. Raley also raised concerns about the new RLT zone and the mandatory open space requirements in the growth areas, arguing it could adversely impact another top County issue: affordable workforce housing.
Both issues, Commissioner President Jack Russell suggested, “need to be well-vetted.” He referred to the complex Ordinance as a “living document” and supported the idea of bringing specific issues back for consideration and public hearings at a later date.
Director of Land Use and Growth Management, Derick Berlage, highlighted the BOCC’s “truly innovative steps,” which extended farming uses, adopted new design standards for developments in the RPD and spurred a number of improvements in growth centers. All of this, he said, was done while pusuing the County’s desire to preserve its rural character.
Berlage thanked the community for its input, stating the hundreds of letters and public input helped in the decision-making process. The new Zoning Ordinance will be effective Sept. 14.
The board approved the use of Room 14 of the Potomac Building in Leonardtown as the Early Voting Center, which begins Sept. 3, and authorized the contract award for the ARRA-funded Mechanicsville Rd. Culvert Replacement Project to the lowest bidder.
A budget amendment reducing FY2010 appropriation authority was approved as a result of the many cuts experienced in the past year. County Chief Financial Officer Elaine Kramer explained the $4 million reduction is the amount the County had hoped would be used for grant funding that simply didn’t come through.
The commissioners held a public hearing on the Board of Education’s proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Water and Sewerage Plan, which will connect the systems of Chopticon High School and Margaret Brent Middle School. LUGM’s Dave Chapman explained how the connection would benefit both schools, giving the upgrade needed by the middle school and making Chopticon’s new state-of-the-art system run more efficiently.
The board heard from Public Safety Director David Zylak concerning the 9-1-1 failures that occurred July 4, Aug. 1 and Aug. 29. “It’s very frustrating when these [outages] occur,” Zylak stated, explaining to the board how he’s disagreed with Verizon’s reaction to the problem. Though reports show no 9-1-1 calls were missed during those dates, Zylak said Verizon had committed to upgrading the affected portions of the network by Sept. 30. “I’m hoping the next generation ring will serve to fix this problem.”
County administrator John Savich added that with a month or more of “unreliability” for emergency and general phone use, it’s a reasonable concern during a hurricane season.
The BOCC approved a zoning text amendment allowing emergency services facilities to have an electronic sign on their property and scheduled a public hearing addressing the state-mandated requirement for the addition of a recycling plan for public schools to be added to the Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan. The County’s Recycling Coordinator Richard Tarr said the required change was more of an administrative task, since, “we’ve been recycling in the public schools for years.”
The board issued three proclamations Tuesday. The first, Forget-me-not Month offers veteran-crafted blue flowers as a token of appreciation for donations given to theDisabled American Veterans during the month of Sept. Representatives will be accepting contributions at various locations throughout the county and want people to know that 100 percent of proceeds go directly to help veterans and their families.
The commissioners acknowledged National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, applauding the efforts of the Human Services Department, Walden Sierra and Marcey House. Walden’s Dr. Kathleen O’Brien said, “We’re committed to helping and we don’t believe in waiting lists. In light of the budget cuts, we’re helping more people than ever.” In fact, she estimated 1200 citizens annually receive services in St. Mary’s for what the commissioners called “treatable but serious health conditions.”
Sept. is also Emergency Preparedness month and the board reminded citizens to prep their disaster kits, go over their emergency plans and stay informed. Zylak said Hurricane Earl had become a category 4 storm and urged St. Mary’s residents to register for emergency e-mail notifications. Do so by clicking here.
The commissioners will meet again Sept. 21.

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