Talbot council OKs zoning code
EASTON — The county council voted Tuesday night to approve a new zoning ordinance for Talbot County.
The 4-1 vote in favor of Bill 1401 came after the Talbot County Council considered numerous amendments during its meeting at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton.
Council President Jennifer Williams, Vice President Corey Pack and Council members Chuck Callahan and Dirck Bartlett voted for Bill 1401; Council member Laura Price cast the sole dissenting vote. Pack, away on vacation, participated in the meeting and cast his votes by speaker phone.
With Bill 1401 passed, it left the room divided based on which amendments passed or failed. Callahan said he enjoyed listening to the public about their opinions on the amendments, and believes Bill 1401 is good for Talbot County
“I’ve met with a lot of you guys and I have enjoyed listening to you,” Callahan said. “There is a lot that is in this 190 and everybody up here worked really hard with it. I don’t think anything negative has happened. I was born and raised here. I meet people, and I travel up and down these roads.”
Price, however, did not hold the same sentiment. She said she was disappointed with the direction the bill went.
“If county council can’t listen to them, I can’t support this because these are big issues that can change the landscape of Talbot County,” Price said. “Thank God the sewer amendment passed because even though some council members did not agree with it, I disagree. I think that it strengthens the language, and I’m glad that the cottage industry passed. But as a whole, I can’t support the bill because there is too much in there where the council didn’t listen.”
Prior to the vote on Bill 1401, council members considered 13 amendments, including several related to short-term rentals, as well as one concerning rezoning and sewer connections.
Price said about 265 people wrote council members concerning one or more of the amendments.
“I would like to thank the staff because I know how many hours they have put into this, right up to the last minute being here today,” Williams. “There is not one
right answer, and there is no one size fits all. The opinions that we have heard they ranged from one extreme to the other.”
Several amendments dealt with short-term rentals.
Amendment 1 would have required any new short-term rentals to be the principal residence of the applicant and would have allowed short-term rentals for accessory dwellings if the owner was staying in the principal residence during the rental period.
Amendment 3 would have capped short-term rental licenses at two percent of the number of housing units within the unincorporated areas of Talbot County.
Amendment 9 would have prohibited new short-term rental licenses in the county’s Town Residential zoning district.
All three amendments were defeated on a 2-3 vote with Price and Bartlett in favor and Williams, Callahan and Pack opposed.
Amendment 11, proposed Tuesday by Williams, would allow the county to issue a $500 fine to any property owner operating or advertising an unlicensed short-term rental on or after 6 months from date Bill 1401 takes affect. The property owner also would be prohibited from applying for a short-term rental license for 12 months from the date of the violation.
Applicants also would be required to have an onsite inspection of the property and would allow renewal licenses to be issued for a period of up to two years. The amendment eliminated a requirement to show a copy of an insurance policy for $500,000.
Williams’ amendment was approved 3-2, with Callahan and Pack joining Williams in voting for; Bartlett and Price voted against.
Sewer lines and rezoning
Price had introduced an amendment to indicate that entitlement to connect to the sewer system would not alone be sufficient to support a finding of substantial change in character of the neighborhood or community where the property is located.
The amendment passed unanimously.
“This is probably the most important amendment we could vote on,” Bartlett said. “We are running sewer lines because we want to clean up the Bay that is the first, we want these villages to stay viable. This amendment, it asks the question, ‘Why are you running sewer to the village?’ Some villages already have sewer lines, lots of them don’t. It’s a good idea. It affirms everything that we have been trying to do for the past several years.”
Williams had proposed, but did not introduce, an amendment with slightly different wording.
The council unanimously approved several other changes largely intended to clean up several sections of the proposed zoning code.
Amendment 2 clarified the height limit and setbacks for grain processing, drying and storage structures (wholesale commercial).
Amendment 5 changed the noise section of the proposed zoning code to reflect that noise regulations had been shifted to another section of the county code. The county council had previously approved Bill 1403, the new noise ordinance.
Amendment 6 made various minor changes to the proposed zoning code.
Amendment 10, proposed Tuesday by staff, made changes to the proposed zoning code to make it consistent with Bill 1293. Those changes were not reflected in the county code and therefore were inadvertently included in Bill 1401.
Amendment 7 clarified various Critical Area zoning regulations as a result of discussions with staffers at the state critical area commission.
Amendment 8 eliminates the property maintenance and landscape contracting use from the table of uses. The use is listed as an appropriate use as a cottage industry. It also provides greater flexibility for cottage industry uses on lots greater than 10 acres in size, including allowing a larger accessory structure, more trucks and more employees.
Bill 1402, which amends zoning maps of Talbot County, was also passed during Tuesday’s night meeting with a unanimous vote. The bill specifically maps 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 22, 24, 30, 32, 33, 38, 39, 40, 40A, 41, 42, 43, 44, 44A, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51, 55 and 56.
It also rezones the affected lands consistent with the 2016 Talbot County Comprehensive Plan.
For more information about Bill 1401 and 1402, visit www.talbotcountymd.gov.
From left, Talbot County Council members Laura Price, Dirck Bartlett, President Jennifer Williams and Chuck Callahan, with Vice President Corey Pack on speaker phone, discuss Bill 1401 during the Talbot County Council meeting on Tuesday evening.