Cumberland Times-News

June 27, 2013

2,000 square feet max for neighborhood businesses?

Allegany County officials reconsider proposed zoning change

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — CUMBERLAND — After taking account of concerns expressed at a recent hearing, Allegany County officials have revised a proposed zoning change that would allow some businesses in residential areas.

An addition to the language of the proposed change will limit the total square footage of any business permitted in a residential area to 2,000 square feet, with the exception of greenhouses and nurseries.

Larger businesses could be “problematic” for a neighborhood setting, David Dorsey, the county’s acting planning coordinator, said Thursday.

At a public hearing on the changes last week at a county commission meeting held in Flintstone, at least one resident expressed concern that small-scale businesses were not clearly defined, leaving an opening for uses not compatible with a residential neighborhood.

“This (change) is a result of looking at the comments we have received,” said Dorsey.

The proposed change could allow property owners to open 10 different types of businesses, if granted a special exception to operate in residential areas.

 The Allegany County Planning Commission has already approved the changes.

Final approval of a change to county law is required by Allegany County commissioners, which could happen at the July 11 commission meeting.

The basic idea is to allow property owners to operate a small business in their home or a building in a residential area, Dorsey has said.

A special exception is required to allow uses outside the zoning rules.

The exceptions can be granted by the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals.

For residential areas, the only two currently allowed exceptions are mobile home parks and campgrounds and resorts.

If the law is changed, allowed exceptions would include grocery stores, retail stores, greenhouses and nurseries, bakeries, professional offices, restaurants and banks, among other uses.

“The intent is to allow certain non-intrusive uses in neighborhoods, without changing the character of the neighborhoods,” Dorsey said recently. “We’re adding to the text, not taking any text out.”

The addition of the square footage limitation should guarantee the non-intrusive nature of allowed businesses, he said.

Currently, residential zoning districts are referred to as G-1 districts; that’s short for General Urban Development districts.

County Attorney Bill Rudd said the change would apply to all G-1 districts in the county.

The number of special exceptions considered varies from month to month, county officials said.

A draft of the law was introduced at last week’s Allegany County Commission meeting. Plans to revise the law began after a request by a property owner in a G-1 district who planned a Flintstone bakery.

The potential zoning change was discussed Thursday at the Allegany County commission business meeting at county offices on Kelly Road.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.