Maryland Campground Zoning Matter Drags On

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February 8, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Aerial view of the St. Mary's Yachting Center in Drayden, Md.. Zoning technicality embroils tourism establishment. Photo courtesy of The Bay Net.

A proposal to correct a “mapping mistake” for St. Mary’s Yachting Center in Drayden, Md., and an adjoining campground continues to wend its way through the bureaucratic process.

The St. Mary’s County Commissioners on Tuesday (Feb. 7) held a public hearing on the proposal and no one testified. The commissioners will hold the public record open for 10 days and then will vote on it and send their recommendation to the State Critical Areas Commission, which has the final say, The Bay Net, Lexington Park, reported.

The marina, which was formerly known as Dennis Point Marina, is in what is known as a Limited Development Area (LDA) under critical area zoning but the adjacent campground is in a Resource Conservation Area (RCA), which does not allow campgrounds, makes the campground a non-conforming use, and doesn’t allow expansion.

The St. Mary’s County Commissioners last September corrected a similar mapping error for Buzz’s Marina in Ridge. The commissioners in August voted to approve changes in zoning regulations for campgrounds at marinas. Under the regulation changes, 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 Hoard of Appeals.

The issue became controversial in late 2010 when the appeals board ruled that camping wasn’t allowed at Buzz’s Marina. Camping continued there and a Land Use and Growth Management (LUGM) inspector descended on the campground in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, 2011, waking two sleeping campers. Several commissioners were critical of the action. Waterfront campgrounds were touted as an important tourism amenity.

At the commissioners’ public hearing, LUGM Environmental Planner Sue Veith said the original mapping error could have been made because the campground at the then Dennis Point Marina was in a wooded area and could not been seen from the aerial maps used for the mapping.

Veith told the planning commission at an earlier public hearing that the issue for St. Mary’s Yachting Center came up because the property is for sale and the prospective buyers were concerned about what they could do with the property.

One Objector at Plan Meeting

At the planning commission public hearing, neighbor Paul Matteau was the only person to testify. He said of the current operator, “The place hasn’t been managed well.” He complained about noise and trash from the current operator and was concerned about how a new operator would run it. “I want to know what the next step is,” he said.

Planning Commission Vice President Shelby Guazzo asked that whatever changes are made there come before the commission. Staff assured her that would be the case. Those concerns were relayed to the county commissioners at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R: 3rd) said he hoped a method would be developed to correct all other similar situations at one time. LUGM Director Phillip Shire said he wasn’t sure how many other situations there were, since the two marina/campgrounds already addressed were the largest. Jarboe assured Shire there were others. County Administrator John Savich said staff would work on developing a plan for the other marina/campgrounds.

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