Cumberland Times-News

July 10, 2013

Garrett planning panel urges county officials to endorse petition to allow boat rentals

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — The Garrett County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend that county commissioners endorse a petition by William Meagher, owner of Lakeside Commercial Properties LLC, to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance to allow him to offer boat rentals without the services associated with it.

The motion to modify Meagher’s petition specifies that it’s contiguous with only boat rentals in the town center and the use would only be permitted on properties that have a minimum of 200 feet of lake frontage. The motion passed with three in favor, one recusal and one abstention. Bill Weissgerber, an alternate with the planning commission, abstained from voting and voiced concerns about safety. 

“I’m not going to vote on it right now because I want to think more on it based on what I heard today,” said Weissgerber.

Weissgerber said he agreed with the opinion of Jonathan “Smiley” Kessler, owner of Smiley’s Sports Bar and Grill at the lake.

“This discussion is asking zoning to do something that it really isn’t equipped to do and that is deal with market economy,” said Kessler. “Market economy will determine how many marinas are needed, how many can be successful.”

Three owners of local marinas also voiced concerns about safety.

“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, who initiated the original legal action to close down Meagher’s mini-marina. “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.”

Gary Pfirrmann, owner of Deep Creek Lake Boat Rentals and Sales, said he almost got hit twice near Lakeside Creamery and Carol Jacobs, president of the Aquatic Center Inc. said one of her employees totaled his car in front of the business.

“I don’t think the planning commission or the county commissioners can base an ordinance on safety. If you want to you can talk to the state fire marshal or the State Highway Administration,” said Tony Doerr, vice chairman, who also noted that he was concerned about safety in the area of Lakeside Creamery.

Pfirrmann noted that all marinas should be on the same level playing field and that the five marinas in the area were required to have the same acreage and parking.

“We had to jump through hoops and for 18 years I jumped through hoops,” said Pfirrmann.

Meagher commented on the safety aspect of the mini-marina.

“We have operated within last year and have had all of our vehicles parked in the lot,” said Meagher. “Part of this zoning text amendment is to allow for parking.”

The owners of the local marinas also asked that the planning commission vote against Meagher’s petition to amend the ordinance.

Bob Nickle, general manager of Bill’s Marine Service, said that by allowing the amendment the planning commission was creating spot zoning.

“The whole idea of a zoning ordinance is it’s there to protect the public and the citizens of Garrett County as a whole,” said Nickle. “If we keep whittling away and making small changes here and small changes there, what merit, what validity does this zoning ordinance hold?”

The commissioners will have a public hearing before they make a final decision on the planning commission’s recommendation, according to Troy Ellington, president of the planning commission.

Meagher complied after he was recently ordered to cease operations of the 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.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.