February 26 2013 Minutes
The Board of Appeals held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building, La Plata, Maryland.
The following were present:
Luke Hannah, Chairman
Natalie McKinney, Vice Chairman
Frederick Mower, Member
Jean Schappet, Member
Brendan Moon, Member
Cindy Terry, Alternate
Adam Storch, Associate County Attorney
Charles Rice, Planning
Cyndi Bilbra, Planning
Erica Hahn, Planning
Carrol Everett, Clerk
The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. and stated there was a quorum.
The Chairman announced the process by which all Board of Appeals hearings are to be conducted.
The Chairman announced that anyone wishing to make a statement pertinent to the operations of the Board can do so at this time, excluding the items on tonight’s agenda.
7:04 PM, Public Hearing: Docket #1299 (continued from February 12, 2013) – Richard & Carol Turner, for three variances and a Special Exception for a slaughterhouse, as provided in Article XIII, Section 297-212 and 297-216C and Article XXV, Section 297-415 and 297-416 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.
The Chairman announced there is no sign-in sheet as testimony has been closed.
Mr. Storch summarized the procedural history of the Applicant’s request, thus far. He stated that on February 12, 2013, the Board heard testimony from the Applicant, County Staff, and the public. The Board also announced that the record would be left open for seven (7) days to receive additional written testimony and that the hearing would continue on February 26, 2013. The Clerk provided the Board compiled evidence on a compact disc which included the following: numerous letters and photographs in opposition of the application, numerous letters in favor of the application, and a legal memorandum from Mr. Roger Fink, Esquire opposing the application. The Board also took judicial notice of the following: subdivision plats for properties on Petzold Drive and the Charles County Road Ordinance for 1995 and 1998. Prior to 1996, the subdivision regulations did not regulate the amount of lots that could occur along a private road. Prior to 1996, the Planning Commission stipulated restrictions on subdividing on a case-by-case basis which appeared as notes on plats. Additionally, Mr. Storch noted that while Cyndi Terry, Alternate Member, was not present at the February 12, 2013 meeting, she watched the video recording of that hearing and reviewed the compiled evidence.
7:10 PM: The Chairman called for a 5 minute recess for legal counsel.
7:15 PM: The Chairman re-opened the meeting for discussion/comments by the Board.
Mr. Moon: The County determined that the use was a “slaughterhouse”. This has created a hardship for the Applicant as he has been in operation for more than 10 years without such a determination. The Board must consider the following three variances individually:
- Minimum lot size of 20 acres. The evidence shows that the small lot does not negatively impact the surrounding properties. The closest neighbors testified in favor of the Applicant. The proposed use does not include the storage of live animals or the killing of animals. The slaughterhouse is unique in that it strictly processes meat. Meat processing does not create odors, dust, smoke, noise or other similar nuisances that would require significant buffers to surrounding properties. Mr. Moon stated that the property is also unique because it is surrounded by acres of protected and preserved property which far exceed the required buffers for a slaughterhouse. To support this variance request, Mr. Moon recommended a permanent condition stating that the business consists of “meat processing only”. The killing of live animals or storage of live animals would be prohibited.
- Building setbacks. The slaughterhouse is unique in that animals are not killed or stored on site. The Applicant is proposing the use of an old barn structure that existed prior to the proposed intended use. Evidence shows that the barn was built properly and prior to the subdivision of property. Re-use of the existing barn within an Agricultural Conservation Zone seems preferable to erecting an additional structure that is further set back and otherwise not required. There does not seem to be a need for greater setbacks or buffers than already exists. To support this variance request, Mr. Moon recommended applying the same condition as stated for the minimum lot size (i.e., no killing or storage of live animals).
- Business has direct access to a collector or arterial road. The use of Petzold Drive seems to be the only controversial aspect of this case. In addition to providing direct access to abutting properties on Petzold Drive, the road also collects traffic from Elizabeth Drive and channels it to Dr. Samuel Mudd Road. The history and unusual sequence of subdivisions that put so many houses on this road, is a special circumstance of this case. The legal status of the road is unclear to Mr. Moon. The road is a private road owned by parties who did not testify. It was created on February 14, 1974 when the property was first subdivided. At that time, Dr. Samuel Mudd Road was designated as MD Route 232. The Applicant’s property (Lot 5) was created with a subsequent subdivision on June 4, 1975. He believes the legal status of the road and the lack of participation of the road owner creates a unique situation and hardship that may indicate consideration of a variance. The evidence clearly indicates that the Applicant is performing maintenance work on the road. Mr. Moon highly recommended the Applicant continue to maintain the road if the Special Exception is granted. He does not believe the Board has the authority to place a condition on maintenance of a third party’s private property. To limit the traffic, he suggested the business operate “By Appointment Only” and be limited to (4) per day.
Mr. Mower: The status of the road is a very unique situation. In the past, having no subdivision regulations was the norm. Whoever lived there maintained the roads. The Staff recommendations 1-6 were outstanding. Mr. Mower did not agree with limiting the business to “By Appointment Only”. Limiting the hours of operation would be more effective and easier to enforce.
Ms. Schappet: Evidence demonstrates that the Applicant is a good neighbor as they have been in operation for 10 years and have helped to maintain the private road.
Mr. Moon: Staff considered the basic criteria of the Special Exception in their report to the Board, and he agrees with their findings in that regard. He stated that the only difficult question for him was whether to grant the variances.
Ms. McKinney: Feels the business has outgrown the neighborhood. May reconsider if the hours of operation are limited.
Chairman: The determination that Rick’s Place is a “slaughterhouse” is an unfair categorization of Mr. Turner’s meat processing business. In favor of granting all three variances due to the relatively small size of the operation and the limited amount of traffic it generates. Also does not agree with limiting customers to “By Appointment Only” as it would negatively affect deer hunting and processing.
Mr. Moon: Defended his “By Appointment Only” proposed condition. He stated that limiting the hours does not restrict the traffic on the road.
The Board briefly considered reopening the record for testimony by the Applicant on maintaining the road, but decided that it was unnecessary.
The Board reviewed the hours of operation as stated in the Staff Report.
Actions by the Board
A MOTION was made by Mr. Mower, seconded by Ms., Schappet, to approve all three variances and the Special Exception for Docket #1299 with six conditions recommended by Staff. With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed.
The meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.