The County Commissioners approved a new law Thursday that would allow retreat or conference centers to be built in agriculture and conservation zones.

The change would allow centers for professional, educational or religious groups to be built in those zones after the owners obtain permission from the County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Jeff Griffith voted for the change.

Commissioner President John L. Armacost was not at the meeting.

Assistant County Attorney Laurell E. Taylor said the change was made at the request of a Westminster attorney acting on behalf of a client.

The law requires that a retreat or conference center be built on a property of at least five acres. The appeals board also could limit maximum occupancy based on the center's proximity to a public water supply and other factors.

The center could be used for meetings, conferences or seminars and could provide meals, housing and recreation for participants, the law says. The center could not be open to the public for meals or overnight accommodations.

Housing could be in lodges, dormitories, cabins (with or without bathrooms) or other temporary quarters approved by the board, the law says.

Kitchen and dining facilities could be only in a single, centrally-located building or buildings, the law says.

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