Cumberland Times-News

January 8, 2013

Watershed ordinance public comment held open

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — During a public hearing Tuesday, the Board of Garrett County Commissioners voted unanimously to delay a decision on the planning commission’s recommendation to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance, in order to keep the record open.

The decision will be delayed until the next public meeting on Jan. 22.

There are two amendments to the ordinance, according to John Nelson, director of Planning and Land Development.

“The focus of these amendments is to change those two sections of the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance so that they are in fact consistent with (Land Use) Article 66B and so that it better enables the board of county commissioners to amend the zoning ordinance as they see appropriate,” said Nelson.

Commissioner Jim Raley questioned whether the commission has the authority to make any state provision more stringent. Nelson said it could be done.

During the public comment portion of the hearing, Bob Nickle, general manager of Bill’s Marine Service, said he opposes any change to the ordinance.

“At minimum, what you are doing is leaving the potential to bypass the zoning appeals board,” said Nickel. “It totally waters down what you have the zoning appeals board for.”  

Commission Chairman Robert Gatto said he also received an email from Parker Jacobs in opposition of the amendments.

Under a current section of the ordinance, the commissioners are compelled to make findings of fact with respect to certain planning matters before enacting any amendment, modification, repeal or reclassification, according to a letter written to the commissioners by Nelson.

However, a subsection of the land use article specifies that findings of fact on certain planning matters is required only when a proposed change in a zoning classification is contemplated.

“It doesn’t require that findings of fact be required on a text amendment as our current ordinance does,” said Nelson during the public hearing.

The first part of the ordinance would be amended to include the following new text: zoning regulations, restrictions and boundaries may periodically be amended or repealed.

Where the purpose and effect of the proposed amendment is to change the zoning classification, the commissioners shall make findings of fact that include the following matters: the report and recommendations of the planning commission, population change in the area to be affected by proposed change, and availability of public facilities such as police and fire protection and water and sewerage to serve the area.

The findings of fact should also include present and future transportation patterns in the area; compatability with existing and proposed development of the area; the relationship of the proposed change to the adopted comprehensive plan for the county; and whether there has been a convincing demonstration that the proposed rezoning would be appropriate and logical for the subject property.

The proposed hearings have no bearing on the mini-marina case that will be in circuit court on March 29, according to Commissioner Gregan Crawford.

“This is basically a housekeeping issue,” said Crawford.

In regard to the second proposed ammendment, the commissioners may enact any proposed text amendment, modification or repeal by a majority vote of the board, according to Nelson. 

Also, the commissioners may grant an amendment to change the zoning classification based upon a finding that there was a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood where the property is located or that there was a mistake in the existing zoning classification.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at