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2001-05-06
Easton, MD. Home Depot Wants Special Zoning

Sprawl-busters in Talbot County Maryland are pushing for a voter referendum to block the development of a Home Depot and a Lowe's on the outskirts of Easton, MD. A group called Citizens for Sound Growth has organized to stop the progress of Bill 808, a zoning amendment which was drafted by Home Depot lawyers. Bill 808 would strip the Talbot County Planning Commission of its legal powers to disapprove site plans, and gives that power to the County Planning Officer. The site plan submitted by Home Depot has already been rejected by the Talbot County Planning Commission because of its traffic impacts. That opinion was affirmed by the Talbot County Board of Appeals, which also found that a Home Depot was not an appropriate use in a "Limited Industrial" zone, which was meant for office and light industries, not home improvement stores. Home Depot appealed the BOA ruling to the Talbot County Circuit Court, where it is now pending. Bill 808 also allows home improvement stores in limited industrial zones. Anti-sprawl advocates argue that 808 is a crude attempt by developers to simply rewrite the Talbot County zoning ordinance to make it fit their project, rather than accepting the fact that their big box store does not fit the ordinance. The Citizens for Sound Growth say that voting down 808 will put the matter of big box locations back to the Comprehensive Plan process, which is set to start soon. They note that the Home Depot developers only want to change the rules for their store, and have no involvement in the larger land use issues that normally are handled through the Comprehensive Planning Process.

What you can do: The developer comes to Easton, gets rejected by two boards, tries to locate in an inappropriate zone -- and when they run into opposition, they try to rewrite the rules rather than accept the code as citizens wrote it. If every developer who comes to town can rewrite the zoning ordinance, then Talbot County in fact has no zoning ordinance. The community, by the way, already has a Lowe's store, so its not like people are denied the pleasures of big box home improvement stores. Most pathetic of all, is the fact that 3 town councilors sponsored Bill 808, which completely makes a sham of regional planning, and a rational growth policy. A Limited Industrial zone is the wrong place for a retail store, but most developers can't seem to read zoning maps anyway. If the Citizens are successful, Bill 808 will go on the November, 2002 ballot. That's another reason why developers would be upset to see this go to the voters: they like to get stores into the ground as fast as possible, and democracy is too slow for most retailers to wait for. To contact the Citizens for Sound Growth, call 410-226-0085, or 410-763-8013.










 
 
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