What ag zoning means [Editorial]

Opponents of the proposed Regent at Stone House wedding venue recently suffered a setback in their ongoing efforts to keep the project from winning regulatory approval.

The Harford County Council decided last week that neither the council nor the zoning hearing examiner are the proper authorities for hearing an appeal of the approval the Harford County Planning Director gave the project last November.

At issue are nearly 52 acres along Glenville Road that have been designated by their owners as a lovely place to have a wedding venue, complete with space for receptions and parking and that has been deemed by some neighbors to be a terrible place to start such a business.

According to a transcript of the zoning appeals hearing, plans by Tim and Lisa Limberger, the property owners, to develop part of their property into a country setting for weddings was approved Nov. 29, 2016 by the county’s planning director.

Some residents opposed to the proposal appealed that decision to Robert Kahoe, zoning hearing examiner, who heard their appeal March 22 and on April 12 dismissed the appeal, saying he didn’t have jurisdiction over such matters.

Opponents appealed Kahoe’s dismissal to the Harford County Council, which is also the county’s board of zoning appeals. The County Council agreed with the hearing examiner and voted that neither was the proper authority for deciding such matters.

Before he filed the appeal with the county, Michael Leaf, the attorney for the opposition, also filed an appeal in Harford County Circuit Court. That’s where it’s been pending further action since Leaf filed it Jan. 5. He also has the option of appealing the council’s/board of zoning appeals’ decision to circuit court.

The point of all this is to remind everyone that in Harford County agricultural zoning, which evokes pleasant mental pictures of rolling farmland and other bucolic scenery, there are permitted uses more onerous than wedding venues. Chief among them are centers of aviation – private and public – solid waste transfer stations, rubble landfills, sewage pumping stations, highway maintenance facilities and agricultural retail space.

And it’s been that way for many, many years. There are a lot more permitted uses – simple or with special exceptions – of farmland other than just a place to plop some cows into a field or to throw some seeds and wait for the corn to get knee-high by the Fourth of July.

There’s no doubt if a wedding venue is operational on Glenville Road there will be more noise, more people and more traffic than is on the quiet, country road. In today’s wedding world, the one thing the opposition will have less to worry about is an increase in drunk drivers. Here’s why: Today’s brides have buses take wedding attendees, primarily from a hotel for the bridal party ,to the church or wedding venue. The buses transport wedding-goers from the church to the reception and back to their hotel, or starting point.

There’s plenty for longtime residents of Glenville Road to oppose about the Regent at Stone House proposal. Some cautionary words: Be careful what you wish for, especially for farmland in any Harford County neighborhood because there are always worse uses.

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