Cumberland Times-News

June 12, 2013

Businesses could be allowed in residential areas

Allegany planning commission OKs zoning change; final approval needed

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A proposed county zoning 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 after a public hearing.

The basic idea is to allow property owners to operate a small business in their home or a building in a residential area, said David Dorsey, the county’s acting planning coordinator.

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 allowed exceptions are mobile home parks or campgrounds and resorts.

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

“The intent is to allow certain nonintrusive uses in neighborhoods, without changing the character of the neighborhoods,” Dorsey said at last week’s commission meeting. “We’re adding to the text, not taking any text out.”

Current zoning regulations cost property owners “a lot of possibilities,” said Dorsey.

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.

“In the past, we generally had one a month (at the board of Zoning Appeals),“ said James Squires Jr., the county’s chief of land development services. Squires said several months were skipped earlier this year. In June, two special exceptions and one variance were all approved. There are no requests for July, Squires said.

A draft of the law was introduced at last week’s 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 public hearing on the proposed change to county laws is planned for the next county commission meeting, set to take place June 20 in Flintstone  at 5 p.m.

 The meeting will be held at Flintstone Volunteer Fire Company, 21701 Flintstone Drive, NE, Exit 56 off Interstate 68.

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