Board Reviews Pending Zoning Changes

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Board Reviews Pending Zoning Changes

Prince Frederick, MD - 9/15/2011

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By Marty Madden

If the process of local government is the equivalent of making sausage, the Calvert County Commissioners prepared an Oktoberfest feast Sept. 13. For three hours the board reviewed proposed changes to the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance. The session was led by officials from the Department of Planning and Zoning—Acting Director Mary Beth Cook and Zoning Planner Miriam Gholl, who recently retired but agreed to shepherd the board through the often complex modifications.

The Calvert County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on five zoning ordinance text amendments at its Wednesday, Sept. 21 meeting. The county commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the proposals Tuesday, Sept. 27 during their weekly meeting. According to Gholl, those five proposed text amendments received no adverse comments from local and state agencies.

The five concern zoning laws impacting commercial kitchens, veterinary hospitals and clinics, daycare centers, commercial communications towers in residential districts and the criteria for “age-qualified residents” residing in age-restricted housing communities.

The six pending text amendments the commissioners reviewed Sept. 13 will not be part of the two September hearings since they received agency comments and have not yet been advertised.

The proposals include changes to the ordinance’s section on zoning enforcement. The proposed modifications specify a zoning officer would be responsible for determining whether a use or structure is legally conforming, specifies who may be cited for a zoning violation, zoning violation correction specifications and adding a statute of limitations for prosecuting zoning violations.

One of the more provocative amendments involves regulations on public events and rental facilities on farms. Calvert’s Department of Economic Development requested a change to the ordinance that would allow more than two public events per year at farms provided the additional events are “fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.” The county’s Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board (APAB) recommends keeping the limit at two events. That board’s concerns include the fact the public events are often unrelated to farm activities, increased traffic has an adverse impact on neighboring properties and rural roads are not designed to accommodate heavy traffic.

The county’s Economic Development Commission and Tourism Advisory Commission are opposed to any limits on the number of public events that may be held at farms.

“Staff shares the concerns of the APAB and believes there should be a limit to the number of events held per year,” Gholl stated.

Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark [R] said he felt some commercial activities on farms, such as holding concerts, was getting away from the original intent of promoting agri-business. “As we move forward and allow more uses, what are we doing to the businesses in the town centers?” Clark asked.

Another amendment to the zoning measure would require farms holding public events to submit a “plot plan, showing all areas and structures to be used, including parking and the maximum [parking] capacity proposed.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation suggested requiring that estimates of the maximum person capacity be submitted prior to a public event on a farm. Planning and Zoning staff agreed with that proposal.

The current Calvert County Zoning Ordinance is accessible on the county government’s web site at www.co.cal.md.us

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com



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