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From the Desk of
County Councilman Kirby Delauter

(4/2017) The Fairness Doctrine

Recently I was contacted to meet a local group of landowners in the Emmitsburg area who were concerned about their property rights. Another case I was contacted about was a wood waste recycling business that has been in the same location outside of New Market for 27 years. In order to help you understand some issue I deal with at the county, I will give you a view of these two similar but different scenarios and what I consider "fair" treatment in these two situations.

The first scenario as I said, is where I was contacted by several Emmitsburg landowners who feel that a commercial venue that is being proposed in their neighborhood, could cause issues with their pursuit of happiness. The commercial venue is not permitted in the current zoning and would be, according to these several neighbors, not a good fit for the neighborhood. I met with them, listened to their concerns and see many valid points to their argument. Do I see points to the other side of the argument, yes, I do. Their main point is that they bought their land in a country state. They did not purchase the land knowing that a commercial venue could become their neighbor.

A valid point.

I gave them an example from many years ago in Thurmont where a local trucking company that hauls livestock, and has been in the same location for 40 years, was made to make amendments to their property because a person in a new house that was built next door, didn’t like the odors. I felt that was wrong since the trucking company was there first, the homeowner should have done their due diligence when purchasing the building lot. This situation is similar, we have open land with sparse houses / farms in an area where a commercial venue moves in, without proper zoning which could change the neighborhood from what was existing prior to the venue. If we’re going to follow the logic of the trucking company issue in Thurmont, then the existing landowners in Emmitsburg have a valid point.

Now, let’s move on to wood waste recycling business in New Market. Now, you might ask, "Delauter, why are you worried about a business in New Market, that’s not your district"? My answer is simple, I ran for office to help people, so if someone contacts me and needs assistance from the County bureaucracy, I will get involved. It may not seem important to you until you’re the one that is the crosshairs, then it becomes the most important thing in your world and you want help, I get it.

Similar to the two issues stated above, this mulch / recycling company has been in this current location for 27 years with no issues. They are partially in an Ag zoning which allows what they do in their business, and they are partially in General Commercial zoning which does not. They are surrounded by Light Industrial zoning as well to give you a big picture of the neighborhood. Our County Executive has issued a letter to this company to cease operations since they are not in the correct zoning. Now, keep in mind, this company has been in this location for 27 years. Now, over in Walkersville in a town zoning of " institutional" the County recycles wood waste on this parcel, which by definition, is not allowable in an Institutional zoning.

So for me, the fairness issue comes up in several ways. First, shouldn’t the county just grandfather the wood waste / recycling company in and let them continue to operate? They could go to the board of appeals and get a special exception to be grandfathered until such a time they close their business, in which case the special exception would be removed. Also, shouldn’t the county then practice what they preach? Shouldn’t they stop recycling wood waste in Walkersville since the zoning is not correct? I think both of my solutions here are fair. I think that is all anyone looks for, is fairness.

So in summary, we have Emmitsburg landowners who were there first, they comply with their zoning, and there is a possibility of a commercial venue coming in and disturbing their pursuit of happiness. We have a wood waste/recycling company that was there for 27 years in the same location in New Market that is being told that part of their zoning is wrong and they can no longer operate, while the county does the exact same thing in a different location an all we hear are crickets.

You be the judge - what is fair?

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