From Staff Reports
OAKLAND — The Garrett County Commission agreed to leave the public comment period open for two weeks — until Oct. 8 — following a public hearing Tuesday on William Meagher’s request to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance to add a new category of use for boat rentals not offering any services associated with a marina.
During the standing-room-only public hearing, 10 people spoke in opposition of the proposed text amendment to the ordinance, according to Bob Hoffman, president of the Property Owner’s Association of Deep Creek Lake. Meagher and his attorney, John Coyle, spoke in favor of the proposed text amendment.
Susie Crawford, vice president of POA, who spoke in opposition to the amendment, noted that it would undermine the integrity of the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance and denigrate public health and safety. She also noted that it would create the potential for unintended consequences without further public review.
“The POA’s principal concern with the proposed text amendment is that, if passed, the new usage will become a permitted use in the zoning districts and on those parcels that meet the zoning criteria in the watershed ordinance, the primary impact of which will be in the Town Center Zoning District,” writes Hoffman in a Sept. 16 email to the commissioners. “The door would be wide open for multiple such uses without a case-by-case analysis of each application.”
In the email, Hoffman also urged the commissioners to keep the record open to, “allow sufficient time for meaningful input from the different agencies and organizations with an interest in the matter as well as from the newly appointed DCL (Deep Creek Lake) Watershed Management Plan Steering Committee to assist you in making your decision.”
Chairman Bob Gatto recused himself from the public hearing and abstained from the proceedings based on the fact that Gatto Electric, which he is the primary owner of, completed electrical work for Meagher.
In addition to the POA, the Aquatic Center Inc. as well as local marinas oppose the proposed text amendment to the ordinance.
In July, the Garrett County Planning Commission voted to recommend that county commissioners endorse Meagher’s request.
“We don’t need this kind of operation in Deep Creek Lake. It’s in an unsafe location, it’s too congested there, those watercrafts don’t even have reverse,” said Phil St. Moritz, owner and president of Bill’s Marine Service LLC, during the July meeting. “I’m more concerned with the integrity of the lake. No way is it safe. I think under no circumstances should this mini-marina be allowed to open again.”
Phil St. Moritz initiated the original legal action to close down Meagher’s mini-marina. During a hearing in June in Garrett County Circuit Court, Judge Jim Sherbin found that a previous zoning amendment that allowed Meagher to run the mini-marina was of no legal effect and ordered that the decision by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to issue Meagher a permit be reversed.