Tal­bot coun­cil OKs zon­ing code

The Star Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRISTINA ACOSTA ca­costa@ches­pub.com

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.”

Short-term ren­tals

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.

Other amend­ments

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.

PHOTO BY CHRISTINA ACOSTA

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.

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