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Businesses taking action following Deep Creek Lake zoning decision

Lakeside Creamery to rent boats, provide tours

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — St. Moritz Properties, LLC; Bill’s Marine Service Inc. and Silver Tree Marine, LLC, are filing a petition for judicial review in regard to the Garrett County Commission’s decision in June to amend the Deep Creek Watershed zoning ordinance, according to circuit court documents.

The request from Bill Meagher, owner of Lakeside Creamery, was to add a new category for boat rentals as a separate service that would not offer any other services associated with a marina.

The businesses filed the petition because they felt like they have been “specially and adversely affected” by the commissioners’ decision, according to the document.

“The above-captioned petitioners have and will continue to suffer additional damages to a higher degree than other property owners in the general area as a result of the use of Meagher’s property … and the additional boat traffic, safety issues and parking problems generated thereby,” states the document.

During a June 5 meeting, chairman Jim Raley opposed the amendment, citing concerns over Meagher’s desire not to to offer services on-site. Meagher plans to rent out 12 personal water crafts and four pontoon boats as well as offer guided tours.

The three businesses also appealed the county’s board of zoning appeals approval of permit for Meagher to conduct a commercial-business service at the Lakeside Creamery. Both the petition and the appeal were filed through the law office of Skidmore Alderson & Duncan.

Brian C. O’Brien of Silver Tree Marine, declined to comment on the petition or the appeal but noted they were public record and stated, “the appeal and the petition are what they are. They are pretty self explanatory.”

The board of zoning appeals is required to make a Findings of Facts before the zoning amendment may be enacted, according to the appeal. The Findings of Facts indicated that the boat rental would require a minimum land area of 10,000 square feet but he property does not meet the required square footage, according to the appeal. In addition, Lakeside Creamery was not required to show that it met handicapped-parking requirements or that it was in compliance with any other applicable handicapped requirements, the appeal said.

During a May 31 public hearing on boat rentals, Meagher indicated that Lakeside Creamery had 56 parking spaces that will fit all uses of the facility. 

The appeal also states that the boat rental permit is improper because it’s “detrimental to public welfare,” effects spot zoning, denies equal protection to property owners in the neighborhood and will damage the fair market value of those properties.

“This (zoning ordinance amendment) means that several new boat rental operations can now be added to Deep Creek Lake without adequate parking, space, fuel and launching and service facilities, which will decrease public safety,” said Carol Jacobs, president of Aquatic Center Inc.

The zoning ordinance amendment also means in essence that anyone with a dock slip can open a boat rental business, according to O’Brien.

“The decision, in effect, has created a new class of marinas (mini-marina) that is not subject to certain zoning requirements and restrictions,” said O’Brien in a interview with the Times-News. “By catering to one person they are opening Pandora’s box — virtually anyone can open a marina.”

O’Brien further noted that his issue with the zoning ordinance ammendment was based on the principal of the matter rather than the competition aspect of the matter. 

“I’m not in competition with Lakeside Creamery,” said O’Brien, who noted that Silver Tree Marine does not rent personal water crafts.

During a June 26 commission meeting, residents noted their opposition of the commissioners’ approval of Meagher’s request.

“You are allowing an ice cream place to become a boat rental place. I think that was totally unfair to the existing boat people,” said Steve Friend. “You are cutting their throats by just allowing someone to come in and rent boats.”

Friend questioned what the amendment would do for Bill’s Marine Service and if there would be problems if the marinas decide to open up ice cream stands.

“Should there be no zoning at the lake?” asked Commissioner Gregan Crawford in response to Friend’s question. “Is a zoning document not a living document that is open to new interpretation? Mr. Meagher had a better mouse trap. What was created was a new classification because it had never come up before.”

The creation of ice cream stands would likely fall under the health department’s regulations, according to Crawford.

Resident Linda Bowerbaugh noted that she felt like the amendment change was kept a secret from the public.

“It feels like to the public that the communication was not wide enough,” said Bowerbaugh.

Deep Creek Lake Policy and Review Board Chairman Dave Myerberg indicated at a recent board meeting that he wasn’t aware of the May public hearing either, according to Raley.

“That’s unfortunate,” said Raley. “We have tried desperately to improve that, and the truth of the matter is, it does rely on people using computers these days,” said Raley in response to Bowerbaugh.

Raley noted that he is open to suggestions on how to let the public know about matters that would affect property owners, especially those who may be absentee.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com

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