Monday, October 12, 2009

Rezoning Work Session Oct. 20

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program often calls upon the public to get involved with local issues to ensure citizen voices are being heard and that all sides are considered before decisions are made. This is certainly true with rezoning issues that are vital to preserving and protecting Worcester County’s natural resources.

We encourage everyone to attend a work session Oct. 20 at 1:30 pm at the Worcester County Government Center. The session will focus on zoning maps as part of the comprehensive rezoning plan, which will serve as a guide for determining where growth takes place within the next two decades.

Although initially unhappy with parts of the proposal, we are pleased county staffers and the planning commission have worked together to form compromises that address both property rights and conservation Their recommendations have made the rezoning more consistent with the 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan. Keeping strong agricultural zoning free of non agricultural uses, not allowing upzoning random parcels outside designated growth areas, and removing higher density residential zoning from South Point are all issues that are in-keeping with the 2006 award winning plan.

It is often said that compromise is usually necessary to accomplish major goals, and this process is certainly no exception. By no means did the Coastal Bays Program get everything that we wanted – we would have preferred that a transfer of development rights program for large lot estate zoning and for the excess commercial zoning on Route 50 from Ocean City to Berlin be included in the plan, as well as mandatory conservation subdivision design, not allowing off-site septic, and removal of the more permissive A-2 zoning down MD 611 and east of Berlin.

As pleased as we are with the compromises made, we still must be vigilant. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic that the Worcester County Commissioners will continue to listen to their staff, the planning commission, and the voices of the public to continue to reach a middle ground for all concerned regarding the principal issues on the county's rezoning. It is for this reason that we encourage everyone to attend the Oct. 20 work session.

On a side note, we’d like to take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell and best wishes to Sandy Coyman, who for 10 years was head of the county’s now defunct Comprehensive Planning Department, which was dissolved in May in a department consolidation. As head of that department, Sandy worked to make Worcester County a leader in planning and helped Worcester County win a 2006 award for its nationally recognized comprehensive plan.

He also oversaw the implementation of land protection programs such as the Coastal Bays Rural Legacy Area program, the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program, and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. These programs have permanently protected over 8,000 acres of farms and forests in the county since 2000.

Sandy’s job also included tracking trends and anticipating future community needs, educating citizens and getting them involved in community stewardship, supplementing local monies with grants and managing the county-wide Geographic Information System, among other duties.

Sandy’s work protecting natural resources for future generations will continue in Talbot County, where he will head that county’s planning and zoning department beginning later this month. Worcester County’s loss is Talbot County’s gain. We wish him all the best in his new position.

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