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Article Archive >> In Your County

Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners discuss zoning

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners discuss zoning, APFO issues, proclaim dairy month

As part of its regular meeting on June 7th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners agreed to reach consensus to develop Findings of Fact in Rezoning case RZ-07-007 - Application for Rezoning on Remand from the Circuit Court by Applicant: Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.
The Circuit Court remanded this matter to the Commissioners with instructions "to consider the application of all factors set forth in Section 15.3 in light of the applicable case law."
The applicant had requested that the property, 77.08 acres located on the south side of MD Route 68, approximately 800 feet west of its intersection with Bottom Road, be rezoned from Agricultural (Rural) to Agricultural (Rural) with an Industrial, Mineral Overlay. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the request with certain conditions. The Board of County Commissioners denied the application, citing issues of compatibility with existing residential development in the area, concerns about the quarry's effects on the area water supply, and desire to preserve a "historic" farmstead on the property.
`The Circuit Court determined that the Board erred and that Martin Marietta had presented evidence showing that blasting is conducted below state and county noise levels. It observed that residents have not provided data with respect to how an expansion would negatively affect them or their properties, or evidence of any formal complaints filed by the residents against the existing quarry. The court noted that the Zoning Ordinance does not prohibit the "establishment of new IM Districts near, adjacent to, or in the presence of, rural villages." Martin Marietta has operated a quarry in the area for more than a hundred years, and the court noted that the rezoning will result in mining activities being moved away from Bottom Road residents.
In conclusion, the court found that the Board's "findings of fact did not appropriately address the issue of compatibility. Instead, the Board focused on four categories that were either refuted by the Petitioner as supported by the record or were a misapplication of Section 15.3." The court remanded the matter to the Board to "consider the application of all factors set forth in Section 15.3 in light of the applicable case law."
The applicant agreed to limit blasting, meet with residents of the area on a regular basis to discuss issues, protect integrity of wells, and construct a buffer between the quarry and adjacent properties.
The Findings if Fact will be developed and presented to the Commissioners for final approval at a later date.
The Board discussed alternatives to amend the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) school mitigation process. On February 1, and April 12, 2011, Staff presented information to the Board at work sessions concerning the school mitigation process and the APFO.
The APFO is authorized by the Maryland Code, and was adopted by the County in 1990 in order to ensure that new development does not overwhelm existing or planned infrastructure for roads, sewers, water, and school seats. If existing or planned infrastructure is not adequate as measured by the APFO, the Planning Commission cannot approve a new development. An exception can be made if a developer submits a mitigation plan designed to make the public facilities adequate and the plan is approved. The Board of County Commissioners has the sole discretion to approve or disapprove a proposed mitigation plan.
New residential development must be served by adequate schools or have funded construction capacity for completion within the same school attendance area in the current or next year of the approved County Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Currently, elementary schools are deemed adequate if an individual school has available capacity not exceeding 90% of the State Rated Capacity. Middle and high schools are adequate if at 100% of the State Rated Capacity.
Alternatives discussed included time of payment for mitigation, the possibility of allowing developers to make direct improvements to schools, disallowing mitigation for schools where core services could not keep up with increased numbers of students, allowing developers to donate land for school sites in lieu of mitigation fees, setting calculation standards for determining mitigation amounts, reviewing the way in which pupil generation rates are determined and clarifying "background development", length of time mitigations are in effect, and determining a "starting point" for the mitigation process. Guidance from the discussion will aid in refinement of the alternatives, and further discussion will take place at a future date.
The Month of June was proclaimed "Dairy Month" in Washington County. Accepting the proclamation from Commissioners'' President Terry Baker were Maryland Dairy Princess - Tessa Wiles and Dairy Maids Macayla Wiles and Carol Debaugh.
The Commissioners said that Dairy Farming is essential to the vitality and diversity of the county; that Washington County Dairy Farms are concerned about using green farming practices including farming chores and responsibilities; that dairy farmers need citizen support as they compete with today's industry demands, to support a way of life that has lasted for centuries.
Dairy Month offers an opportunity to honor both farm families and the food processors that provide our residents with a wide variety of fresh, wholesome dairy products.
Washington County is proud of its dairy industry and the important contributions it provides to our economy and the welfare of our citizens. We salute the Dairy Farmers of Washington County for the strength and vitality they bring to our community and their commitment to using the most modern technology for maximum efficiency.
The Board heard an update on passenger service at Hagerstown Regional Airport from Airport Director Phil Ridenour and Business Development Manager Greg Larsen. Progress made to date in regards to Direct Air service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Lakeland, Florida, which begins June 23, 2011, was discussed.
Low-cost flights will serve Hagerstown on Thursday and Sunday with MD-80 aircraft. The planes will seat 139 passengers. Direct ticket sales from the Hagerstown Terminal will begin next week, with airport staff being trained to assist in those sales from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Advertising has begun using a variety of media in the local area. The June 23rd flight will inaugurate commercial air service at Orlando-Lakeland airport, and Commissioners were urged to take the flight to Florida to meet with local officials at Lakeland.
Commissioners commented that if that travel takes place, there would not be a charge to County taxpayers.

Commissioners approved acquisition of property for a sewer easement at 16907 Virginia Avenue in the amount of $25,000.00. . Real Property Administrator (RPA) Joe Kuhna told the Board that the easement will be required from this property to permit construction of a new forced main sewer line to assist in the reduction of flows through the current line which is over burdened. The new main will allow for connection to a 21" gravity system, which will have the needed capacity to handle new growth within the I-70/81 interchange area.
The existing force main currently conveys the sewage from the Sharpsburg Pike corridor, the former PE property and the Oak Ridge pump station. The force main discharges into the Halfway gravity collection system. During wet weather events, the flow within this system is at maximum capacity. No new flows can be added to the existing system.
The Board also approved 3 option agreements for partial real property acquisitions of three rights of way along Marsh Pike and Longmeadow Road. Public Works requested parcels at 19334 Longmeadow Road and 13411 Marsh Pike and 13333 Marsh Pike be purchased to allow for future widening and improvements at a total price of $80,700.00.
Commissioners welcomed the Western Maryland Representative for Governor Martin O'Malley's office, Chris Uhl, who discussed state projects of interest to Washington County.
Uhl asked for local feedback on the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding that would affect projects such as the Potomac River Bridge and I-70/I-81 improvements.
"Project Stat" is a state government initiative to help move economic development projects to fruition in a timely manner. All state agencies involved in a project's approval would work together to make the state more "business friendly". Uhl asked for County assistance in this expedited review process.
Under Other Business, Division of Plan Review and Permitting Director Jennifer Smith and Deputy Director Angela Smith reported on the current stimulus plan for construction, which waives some excise taxes for new residential construction, mobile homes and additions.
Under the current program, which will expire on June 30th, there have been 61 permits issued and $272,128.50 in Excise Tax credits issued. The permits include 28 new houses, 26 additions and 7 mobile homes.
The Commissioners will evaluate the program in July and determine its future direction.
Deputy Director of Health and Human Services Dee Hawbaker reported on the County's Retirement Incentive plan and requested replacement of employees be approved to fill vacancies created by the incentive plan.
The plan was approved for the period from May 1st to July 1st, and originally announced for employees who were normal retirement eligible or within three years of normal retirement.
The incentive includes up to three years of additional credited service to reach either Normal or Early Retirement and a $10,000 Cash Bonus that can be received in the form of check or as a deduction into the County offered Deferred Comp Account.
There are 34 uniformed and 38 non-uniformed employees eligible for Normal Retirement, and 14 uniformed and 17 non-uniformed within three years of Normal Retirement, which is calculated at Age 60 or 30 years service for non-uniformed personnel and Age 50 or 25 years of service for uniformed.
Due to several inquiries from early retirement eligible employees, an Addendum to include Early Retirement eligibility in the incentive was added.
28 employees requested calculations and of those 28, ten have officially signed for retirement benefits.
A total savings for the program, including salaries and benefits, was seen at $225,000.
Those retirees filled certain critical positions within the County, and replacements would be needed, hired at beginning salary levels.
The Commissioners approved filling 12 replacement positions.
Division of Public Works Director Joe Kroboth told the Board that a number of DPW projects are underway including the Devil's Backbone Park Dam replacement, and the 96-bed Detention Center expansion. The Transit Transfer Center is nearly complete, and the fuel station at Southern Highways Section and the Barnes Road Bridge rehabilitation projects were recently completed.
County Administrator Greg Murray requested guidance from the Commissioners regarding new Yard Waste fees at the landfill. That new fee requires all yard waste to be taken across the scales at $10 per trip.
After receiving calls and emails, the Commissioners looked at alternatives, including a separate yard waste sticker, to cost $15 for a year.
A public hearing on the proposal is set for next week's meeting.
The Board approved a Quotation Award for Design/Build/Removal/Disposal and Replacement of Communications Towers and Associated Hardware at several local fire stations. Public Works Director Joe Kroboth and Purchasing Department Buyer Rock Curry requested the award, for the communications towers for the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Company, and Western Enterprise Fire Company to the responsible, go to the responsive low bidder, Allstate Tower Company, Inc., of Henderson, Kentucky for the lump sum amount of $93,580.
Those funds are currently budgeted in the FY 2011 Capital Improvement Plan.
Commissioners approved the purchase of a one-year Motorola Service Agreement for 911 system logging recorders from unexpended FY '11 funds in the Communications Maintenance operating budget in the amount of $63,900.00.
Communications Maintenance Manager Pete Loewenheim told the Board that the 911 system utilizes four logging recorders, to record radio and telephone traffic as mandated by 911 System requirements. Warranty for those units will expire on June 15, 2011.
The funding for this agreement was originally intended to be utilized in the current budget year for warranty service from January 2011 until June 2011. Due to various issues that arose over the course of system implementation, Motorola agreed to extend the original warranty, which would have expired in January, until June 15th of this year. Motorola offered to provide specialized logging recorder training for our technicians as a part of this service agreement. That training will help ensure that the department will be able to require fewer factory service calls thus reducing future costs of maintenance.
NOTE: The above constitutes a summary press release and is not to be considered the Official Minutes of the meeting. Minutes of County Commissioners meetings are available at www.washco-md.net on the Commissioners' page.

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