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Camping at Maryland Marina Unresolved

August 25, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Sunrise over the dock at Buzz's Marina in Ridge, Md.

The county commissioners in Maryland’s St. Mary’s County have approved changes in zoning regulations for campgrounds at marinas.

Under the regulation changes unanimously approved Tuesday (Aug. 23), up to 15 campsites will be allowed as an accessory use in the Commercial Marine (CM) zoning district. And, up to 20 campsites will be allowed in the Rural Preservation District (RPD). Any campgrounds larger would require conditional use approval from the St. Mary’s County Board of Appeals, The Bay Net reported.

The issue became controversial late last year when the appeals board ruled that camping wasn’t allowed at Buzz’s Marina in Ridge. Camping continued there and an inspector from the Department of Land Use and Growth Management descended on the campground in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, waking two sleeping campers. Several commissioners were critical of the action. Waterfront campgrounds were touted as an important tourism amenity.

A suit against the county was put on hold to get the issue resolved.

The planning commission held a public hearing on the idea of making campgrounds permitted uses instead of conditional uses. That recommendation was forwarded to the commissioners who also held a public hearing. But during the process neighbors, represented by attorney Jacquelyn Meiser, argued that campgrounds are noisy and can impact a neighborhood. They insisted that the conditional use process provides an opportunity to log in their concerns.

The decision reached Tuesday was a compromise between the opposite sides of the issue. It removed the appeals board, and a costly process from smaller campgrounds, but gives extra controls over larger ones. The accessory use process allows the Office of Land Use and Growth Management to impose side yard and other restrictions. “I think we have struck a very good balance,” said Commissioner Cynthia Jones.

But Buzz’s Marina’s individual situation still has not been totally resolved. In addition to the zoning ordinance problem, the maps designating the Critical Areas boundaries were issued many years ago in error and the marina property was left out. There was no opposition to correcting that error; the commissioners left the record open for 10 days before making a decision.

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