Get on with it
If you've been watching the news across the river in Hancock, you know there was quite a flap this winter over a radio tower that the Hancock Planning Commission approved for a residential neighborhood on Baptist Road.
In a town where a public controversy is rare, many people organized against the tower, showed up at meetings, wrote letters, etc. The issue may even have had an impact on a recent town election where a veteran council member was unseated.
In the end, the town council let the project move ahead because Hancock has no zoning ordinance and, therefore, no apparent legal grounds to stop a tower from being put up in the midst of homes.
Ironically, the Hancock Planning Commission has been working on a zoning ordinance. Originally it was expected to be finished and adopted by the end of 2006. Now, it looks as if it's still a few months away, but it is on the way, and none too soon.
The town's planning board has been assisted by state planners, who are pushing for all Maryland municipalities to have zoning to both protect homeowners, as with the Baptist Road case, and to help business by designating commercial and growth areas.
When Hancock adopts its ordinance, it will join other communities which have shown the wisdom to move in that direction. Neighboring counties – Washington County, Md. and Frederick County, Va. – have been tightening their rules. Adjoining Hampshire County is working on a zoning ordinance. The town of Paw Paw in western Morgan County already has a municipal ordinance. A couple West Virginia counties away, Hardy County also has a zoning law, though, admittedly, one that is starting out very loose.
We suggest that after the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan is approved and filed on the shelf, the county commissioners and planning board should begin a serious discussion about zoning here. Either that, or they should give us a really good reason why not, and not just the usual song and dance.