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Bel Air approves changes that will allow hookah lounges

BY MARISSA GALLO, mgallo@theaegis.com

8:58 AM EDT, October 2, 2012

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The Bel Air Town Commissioners approved amendments to the town's development regulations Monday night that will allow smoking lounges to operate within the town limits.

A very brief public hearing was held on the amendments during the meeting in town hall, but no one from the public was in attendance.

With the new changes a smoking lounge, which includes hookah lounges, cigar bars and tobacco clubs, cannot be less than 1,000 feet away from a school property and less than 100 feet away from a residence.

The business would also have to adhere to the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act and will be subject to conditions for hours of operation, age restriction, ventilation of the premises and accessory services as reviewed and set by the Board of Appeals.

Other amendments to the development regulations, though not pertaining to smoking lounges, include reducing requirements for the width of a front setback for single-family homes to 20 feet and other dwellings to 15 street when off-street group parking is provided and the residences are without a parking pad or garage. The setback will also be measured from the back of the curb and not the right-of-way.

Kevin Small, director of planning, explained to the commissioners that this change was made in an effort to match the town's and the county's "road code" and to "get rid of the conflicting sections of the code."

He added the decision to measure from the curb rather than from the back of the sidewalk was made because occasionally the sidewalk is not next to the parking lot.

In addition, pens for domestic animals cannot be within 50 feet of an adjacent resident primary structure, rather than the residence lot line, a shed permit will be required for a structure less than 200 square feet and is regulated as an accessory structure and, finally, zoning approval for a project to continue construction will be good up for to 12 months, if construction ceases.

At the end of that 12-month period, the town can approve an additional extension up to another year.