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Two Garrett County Developers Charged in Fraud Scheme Head to Court

GARRETT COUNTY, Md. – According to officials with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, two Garrett County developers pleaded not guilty on Friday to an indictment accusing them of a $3.7 million bank fraud scheme.

A federal grand jury indicted Samuel R. VanSickle, 49, of Accident, Md., and Louis W. Strosnider III, 47, of Oakland, Md., on February 11, 2014.

According to the six count indictment, VanSickle and Strosnider owned and developed property in Garrett County.

The indictment alleges from December 2001 through June 2004 VanSickle and Strosnider comprised a scheme to fraudulently obtain money and property from financial institutions through false names, and inflating the value of the properties through fraudulent loans and mortgages.

More here.

Deep Creek Dunk draws 850 for icy Special Olympics fundraiser Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-deep-creek-dunk-20140223,0,7321634.story#ixzz2y1JlY2ZH

By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun2:09 p.m. EST, February 23, 2014

Hundreds of hearty souls waded into icy Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland on Saturday for the annual Deep Creek Dunk to benefit Special Olympics Maryland.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police had to cut away a thick layer of ice from the lake to make room for the 850 dunkers, who waded into the water from a spot near the Honi Honi bar.

“It looks like Alaska with the backdrop of the chunks of ice,” said Jason Schriml, vice president of communications for Special Olympics Maryland.

The dunk raised about $160,000, just shy of the goal of $170,000.

While the lake was covered in a 16-inch-thick coating of ice and the water was a frigid 32 degrees, the air temperature was about 50 degrees, Schriml said.

“It wasn’t balmy, but if you’re getting out in 50-degree weather, it’s not too bad,” he said.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-deep-creek-dunk-20140223,0,7321634.story#ixzz2y1JlY2ZH

Amendments to Deep Creek zoning ordinance approved

From Staff ReportsCumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — During a meeting on Tuesday, the Garrett County Commission voted to approve the Garrett County Planning Commission’s recommendation that amendments be made to the Table of Dimensional Requirements for Principal Uses of the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance.

Commission chairman Robert Gatto made the motion to approve the planning commission’s recommendation and it was approved. An amendment was made to the table to add a commercial district under the column of Zoning District under the same row and block as town center district, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator. An amendment was also made to the table to alter the types of uses that would qualify for reduced land areas within a shopping center; to properly align the column headings and minimum land area standards; and to strike certain provisions for other zoning districts and land areas.

That section will read as follows: “Retail use, service businesses and commercial recreational uses that are situated in shopping centers having a minimum land area of 1 acre. Only those retail, service and commercial recreational uses specified under this article as requiring a minimum land area of 10,000 sq. ft. in the TC (town center) and C (commercial) zoning districts, are subject to the reduced minimum land area per use afforded by this section.”

In July, the planning commission voted to recommend that county commissioners endorse William Meagher’s request to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance to add a new category of use for boat rentals not offering any services associated with a marina with certain modifications. The modifications include restricting boat rental use to the town center zoning district and that the use should only be permitted on lakefront properties with a minimum 200 feet measured at the Penelec line, irrespective of whether the lot is grandfathered in under the zoning ordinance, according to Pagenhardt.

Per Meagher’s request, boat rental usage would be permitted in the commercial and town center zoning districts; would be permitted by special exception in the town residential, commercial resort 1 and 2 zoning districts; and not permitted in any other zoning district. Boat rentals or sales would require a minimum land area of 10,000 square feet in any zoning district where permitted, except where the zoning ordinance requires 6,000 square feet per use and shopping centers.

However, during the meeting Tuesday, with Gatto recusing himself, Commissioner Gregan Crawford made a motion to approve Meagher’s request including adding a new category of use for boat rentals including boat rides and/or boat tours as a separate service business and not offering any other services associated with a marina. Crawford’s motion died for lack of a second and therefore ended the pursuit and consideration of Meagher’s request for amendments to the zoning ordinance, according to Pagenhardt.

After final review of text amendments to the zoning ordinance, the commissioners discussed recreational uses of Deep Creek Lake and discussed the nature of zoning within the lake’s watershed. Commissioners raised the concept of special exceptions, according to Pagenhardt. Crawford then entered a motion to send the matter of text amendments back to the planning commission for consideration and review of context for potential use as a special exemption. Gatto and Crawford voted in favor of the motion and Commissioner Jim Raley voted against it.

“Deep Creek Lake is a recreational area and given its nature is subject to competing demands,” says a position statement made by Crawford and Gatto. “The public has expressed concern that there has not been sufficient public discussion and consideration of issues relating to recreational uses and the board is simply responding to that concern and are asking the planning commission for their input, nothing more.”

The planning commission will now be charged with deciding whether to approve, disapprove or take no action and table the special exception.

“The special exception action approved by the board is now solely at the jurisdiction of the planning commission as to whether or not this commission would include such a use and whether or not they would take the subject under advisement,” says the statement.

More here.

Mini-marina debate continues in Garrett County

Ethics complaint filed against commission chairman

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Carol Jacobs, president of Aquatic Center Inc. in McHenry, has filed an ethics complaint with the Garrett County Ethics Commission regarding a potential conflict of interest involving Garrett County Commission Chairman Robert Gatto.

In July, the Garrett County Planning Commission recommended that county commissioners endorse William Meagher’s request to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance to add a new category of use for boat rentals not offering any services associated with a marina. The recommendation included certain modifications. Gatto recused himself from a county commission public hearing held in September based on the fact that his company, Gatto Electric, completed electrical work for Meagher, owner of Lakeside Creamery.

Gatto departed the public hearing and didn’t return until after the presentation and all public comments on the zoning amendments were heard, according to Jacobs.

During a county commission meeting Tuesday, Gatto also recused himself from a vote regarding Meagher’s request to make several amendments to the zoning ordinance to add a new category of use for boat rental including boat rides and/or boat tours as a separate service business and not offering any other services associated with a marina. Commissioner Gregan Crawford made a motion to approve Meagher’s request but it died for lack of a second, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator.

“There is no pending proposal for any change to any ordinance,” said Pagenhardt.

However, the county commission did vote to approve the planning commission’s recommendation that several amendments be made to the Table of Dimensional Requirements for Principal Uses in the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance, according to Pagenhardt.

Jacobs alleges that Gatto shouldn’t have recommended or voted to separate the amendments because they contain definitive language to further Meagher’s interests by allowing recreational uses in a shopping center, which were not allowed before.

The ethics complaint, which was filed online, was sent to Pagenhardt, who declined comment on the complaint. Pagenhardt will send a certified copy of the complaint via registered mail to the ethics commission and to Gatto.

The ethics commission is comprised of Thomas Janes, Wayne Wilt and Jack Riley, who was appointed by the county commissioners Tuesday.

Gatto will have 15 days to respond to the complaint and once the response is received a hearing will be held with the ethics commission to determine if there is cause to proceed further. Failure to respond to the notification of the ethics complaint form will have an unfavorable effect and could result in a default hearing with no input from the nonresponding party, according to the county’s website.

Gatto returned to the meeting Tuesday after recusing himself and voted along with the commissioners to send the matter back to the planning commission for consideration and review of context for potential use as a special exemption. Gatto and Crawford voted in favor of the motion and Jim Raley voted against it.

Jacobs also alleges that Gatto should not have participated in that vote.

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Winter Weather Brings Wisp Resort Its Best Season In Years

MCHENRY, Md. (WJZ) — While much of Maryland is enjoying a bit of a winter thaw, others are still praying for more snow.

Alex DeMetrick reports it’s the one place in the state where snow is paying off.

Clouds may have just been passing by Wednesday at the Wisp ski resort in Garrett County, but they’ve dumped plenty of snow earlier this winter.

“The coverage here at Wisp, it’s unmatched. It’s beautiful. I mean you can ski on trails that aren’t really trails right now,” said Bryan Olszewski, Wisp ski instructor.

More here.

Laurel police get chilly for charity

By Emilie Eastman Staff Writer

Members of Laurel Lodge No. 11, which represents the men and women of the Laurel Police Department, have raised more than $5,000 in support and set a goal of $15,000, according to the group’s fundraising website. The event as a whole has collected more than $70,000 in donations as of Feb. 14.

“We have a fantastic relationship with Special Olympics,” said Jesse Conyngham, president of Laurel Lodge No. 11. “We’ve been pretty big participants [in Deep Creek Dunk], even with the setup of the event.”

Participants in the Deep Creek Dunk fundraiser will jump into the icy waters of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland during the 16th annual event, hosted by the Maryland State Police and Maryland Natural Resources Police.

More here.

Garrett officials to decide mini-marina ordinance

Commissioners expected to take action Tuesday

From Staff ReportsCumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County commissioners are set to make a decision on Tuesday whether or not to approve Lakeside Creamery owner William Meagher’s request to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance for a mini-marina.

Meagher has requested that a new category of use for boat rentals not offering any services associated with a marina be added to the ordinance.

On Oct. 21, the commission met with John Nelson, former director of the county Department of Planning and Land Development, Gorman Getty, county attorney, and Michael Koch, executive director De-partment of Community Planning and Development and weren’t able to reach a consensus.

A public hearing on Meagher’s request was held in September and the public comment period was held open until Oct. 8. During the standing-room-only public hearing, 10 people spoke in opposition of the proposed text amendment to the ordinance.

In July, the Garrett County Planning Commission voted to recommend that the county commissioners endorse Mea-gher’s request.

Phil St. Moritz, owner and president of Bill’s Marine Service LLC, initiated the original legal action to close down Meagher’s mini-marina. During a hearing in June in Garrett County Circuit Court, Judge Jim Sherbin found that a previous zoning amendment that allowed Meagher to run the mini-marina was of no legal effect and ordered that the decision by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to issue Meagher a permit be reversed.

Other agenda items for the meeting include a decision on an amendment to the Garrett County subdivision ordinance, a discussion on the recommended permit fee schedule, a board review of 2014 legislation and update on 2013-2014 winter operations.

More here.

Md. Senate passes plan to preserve more wildlands; lawmaker says state should consider local impact

By , Published: February 14

The long-standing tension between rural Marylanders and their metropolitan cousins was on display Friday as the Senate passed legislation creating nine new state wildlands areas and expanding 14 others.

The bill passed unanimously, but not before Sen. George C. Edwards, a Republican who represents Garrett County, lightly chastised fellow lawmakers for setting aside more land as pristine wilderness without fully considering the economic impact on the people who live there.

“There’s some people here that would like to buy the whole county and put a fence up and a gate, and run everybody out, and say, ‘Here’,” Edwards said in an interview. “But you have to understand people live there and make a living off the land.”

Supporters of the bill backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said the measure will help slow development and provide Marylanders with more room for hiking, fishing and other noninvasive forms of recreation in the outdoors.

More here.


Chronicling Maryland's 'sweet spot for snow'

Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks

5:00 a.m. EST, February 13, 2014

If you think it’s been a long winter here in the Patapsco Drainage Basin, imagine Western Maryland: The first snow landed out there in October; they’ve had 90 inches so far, with about 2 feet of it held in place by a freeze that has made Deep Creek Lake safe for ice fishing.

Of course, winters are almost always like that in Garrett County; it’s the snowiest part of Maryland. But I enjoy going over Garrett weather facts now and then for their shock value and for the perspective they provide for my winter-weary and weather-worried neighbors in Baltimore.

Mentioning the western notch of our oddly-shaped state is sort of like bringing up that eccentric cousin who lives in the woods; you respect his independence and his resilience, but you sometimes forget that you’re actually related to the guy.

Indeed, we are. Western Maryland is out there — about three hours from Baltimore, beyond the Eastern Continental Divide, nestled between Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with mountain elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet and average annual snowfall of 138 inches.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-rodricks-0213-20140213,0,1009395.column#ixzz2y1FgtOhV

Garrett County developers accused of bank fraud

False documents used to secure $3.7 million in loans

By Natalie Sherman, The Baltimore Sun10:29 p.m. EST, February 11, 2014

A federal grand jury indicted two Garrett County developers Tuesday on charges related to a $3.7 million bank fraud conspiracy.

The indictment, announced by U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt, alleges that the two developers, who were involved in land deals together, used fake documents that included false names and inflated sales prices to secure a total of $3.751 million in bank loans for two properties in Garrett County. The charges apply to a scheme conducted between Dec. 31, 2001 and June 30, 2005, according to the indictment.

One of the accused, 49-year-old Samuel R. VanSickle of Accident, used five aliases and established six business names, the indictment said. He worked with Louis W. Strosnider III, 47, of Oakland, to secure the loans, according to the indictment.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/real-estate/bs-bz-bank-fraud-indictment-20140211,0,3908028.story#ixzz2y1FExlfi