The Washington County Planning Commission voted unanimously last night to allow the owner of a Boonsboro farm to continue inviting hunters there as long as he posts warning signs and follows state laws designed to protect nearby residents from stray bullets.
Joseph Michael, a Washington County attorney who owns 137 acres of land, much of which he has set aside as a noncommercial shooting area, was surprised that the hunting area wasn't delineated on maps for Meadows Green, a new housing development nearby.
When he went to the planning department to ask questions, officials suggested that he put together a site plan and obtain certification from the planning commission. But commission members didn't want to approve the plan without seeing the property first. They toured the Michael farm last week.
After the tour and a discussion with the owner, the commission felt confident that no one in the Meadows Green development would be in danger, said member George Anikis. He said that the five members who attended the meeting last night in Hagerstown all voted in favor of preserving the hunting area.
One seat on the commission is vacant, and one member was absent from the meeting.
"We had concerns about the safety of nearby residents, but [Michael] was able to convince us that the way he hunts the property we didn't have anything to worry about," Anikis said. "He will have it well-posted so that the adjoining development will see the signs. A large sign will be posted at the entrance to the preserve."
That sign will also include an aerial photo of the hunting area so residents can see its boundaries. State law requires that the owners of shooting areas post such signs, Anikis said. Michael has said that he will keep it up at all times, Anikis said.
Michael will also place markers on the property so hunters will know when they are within 150 yards of the houses.
"We shouldn't have any complaints of hunters getting too close to the dwellings," Anikis said.