A public hearing was held today at 9:45 a.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland on Code Home Rule 5-2008, which is an Act to amend Article V, Section 5 (“Critical Area Residential”), Article VII, Section 6 (“Procedures”), and Article VII, Section 7 (“Special Exceptions”) of the Kent County Land Use Ordinance to provide for a special exception in the critical area residential district for offices of nonprofit environmental or preservation organizations subject to certain conditions, and generally relating to Article V and Article VII of the Kent County Land Use Ordinance.
County Commissioners Roy Crow, Ronald Fithian, and William Pickrum were in attendance as well as Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, others in attendance were John Vail, President, Sassafras River Association (SRA), Gail Owings, Director of Planning, seven interested citizens, and two members of the media.
Commissioner Crow read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record.
Correspondence dated April 10 was received from Elizabeth Morris, Planning Commission, informing that at its April 3 meeting, the Planning Commission reviewed the proposed zoning text amendment submitted by Mr. Vail on behalf of the SRA. After a lengthy discussion, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the zoning text amendment if amended as follows:
- Delete references to “other headquarters” so that the amendment to Article V, Section 5.3 would read #23. Offices for non environmental or preservation organizations with the following conditions
- Add Article VII, Section 6-Procedures- #23.5. Offices for nonprofit environmental or preservation organizations to the list of uses reviewed by the Planning Commission before submittal to the Board of Appeals
- Add to Article VII, Section 7 (Special Exceptions) - #32.5. Offices for nonprofit environmental or preservation organizations in CAR provided:
1) The organization must be actively pursuing its restoration, preservation, or related educational activities in Kent County.
2) The organization must be a 501C3.
3) The use will occur in an existing structure fronting on a primary road.
4) The office does not create an unacceptable environmental
impact by way of noise, odor, noxious materials, or other nuisances.
5) The office does not generate traffic of a type or amount
inappropriate for all access roads and the surrounding area. It
does not require road improvements detrimental to the character of
6) Adequate landscaping shall be provided to screen parking areas
from adjacent residential properties.
The Planning Commission based its decision on the following:
- The application is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan
- Kent County is lucky to have many nonprofit organizations dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the County’s character and environment. Cottage industries and private clubs are similar use currently listed as special exceptions in the Critical Area Residential District. However, offices for non profit organizations do not meet the definition of these uses. Suitable office space is needed for organizations that serve the county. This represents a public need for the text amendment.
Mr. Vail stated that the SRA has been given a unique opportunity to occupy a building in the Critical Area Residential District on MD 213. The building was previously used as an artist workshop. The SRA feels that the building offers an ideal location to house the SRA and the Riverkeeper on the river. Mr. Vail informed that Kascie Herron has been hired as the SRA Riverkeeper and will begin work on June 9. The location will provide the Riverkeeper direct access to the river and is an ideal location. Mr. Vail requested that an administrative exception be made to the statute for this zoning text amendment. Specifications have tightly drawn so that there is no room for commercial abuse of the zoning text amendment. The SRA use of the property will be lightly used as an office by the river keeper. He stated that the specifications in the zoning provisions are clear cut enough to allow a decision by the Planning Director as opposed to the Planning Commission of Board of Zoning Appeals. Commissioner Crow questioned why a special exception is still needed if the specifications are clear cut. Ms. Owings stated that although the Zoning Text Amendment is clear cut, the Planning Commission felt that it should still be a hearing so that it is clear for other organizations working in Kent County of the process that needs to be undertaken and so that additional questions can be asked. Ms. Owings stated that because this is going into an existing building, a review by the Planning Commission would not be needed; however, the legitimacy of the buildings use would need to be demonstrated to the Planning Department staff. If the zoning text amendment is handled as administrative, staff has the opportunity to send the application to the Board of Appeals if needed and a public hearing is still held to give the opportunity for comment.
Constance Berg informed that she lives next door to the property and expressed opposition to the change in zoning. She stated that the building is located on 2/10 of an acre and
lacks adequate septic. When the septic system is not working, it goes into her yard or in the Sassafras River. She also stated that there is no parking for the property. Ms. Berg expressed concerns that changing the zoning will lower property values for the area. She stated that the building is currently being used as a single family residence. It previously had a non conforming use, which was fought by the community.
This hearing was taped and referenced and adjourned at 9:58 a.m.
Comments will be accepted until Friday, May 30 at 4:30 p.m.
THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND
Denisha C. Brown
Roy W. Crow, President