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Zoning amendment angers Deep Creek Lake marina owners

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Despite opposition from multiple marinas at Deep Creek Lake, the Garrett County commissioners ap-proved an amendment to the Deep Creek Zoning Ordinance to add a new category for boat rentals as a separate service that would not offer any of the other services associated with a marina.

Upon suggestion of the planning commission and after receiving a request from Bill Meagher, owner of the Lakeside Creamery, to amend the ordinance, commissioners approved the amendment at their June 5 public meeting. Commissioners Gregan Crawford and Robert Gatto voted in favor of the amendment, with chairman Jim Raley opposing it. During a May 31 public hearing, Raley noted that he had concerns about Meagher’s decision not to offer services on-site.

Meagher plans to offer 12 personal water crafts and four pontoon boats as rentals as well as offer guided tours. He would use local marinas for services. After approaching the planning commission, he learned he would need a special exception to do so.

“We didn’t want to do sales, we didn’t want to do repairs, we didn’t want to do a lot of the things that the marina does. The only thing we wanted to do was a boat rental business,” Meagher said at the public hearing.

Ed Schofield, general manager of Deep Creek Lake Boat Rentals, noted during the hearing that Meagher’s decision to rely on the competition for services was perplexing.

“No way you can be part of this business and not have sales. You are kidding yourselves,” said Schofield.

Phil St. Moritz, owner and president of Bill’s Marine Service, indicated during the hearing that his business would not service Meagher’s boats.

“He (Meagher) said, ‘We are going to work with marinas.’ We are not going to service them,” said Moritz. “We are not going to launch them.”

St. Moritz noted that there are already too many boats in the water in that area with boat rentals from both Bill’s Marine Service and Deep Creek Marina, which provides rental operations to Will O’ the Wisp.

Meagher indicated that he could get services from Deep Creek Lake State Park and could hire a mechanic in-house. However, Meagher would have to go to a marina on the lake to purchase fuel or would have to fuel on-site.

“I want to work with the people here, but I get it if they are saying they don’t want to work with me,” said Meagher.

Silver Tree Marine, LLC and Patterson Boat Co. also opposed the amendment change, according to Carol Jacobs, president of Aquatic Center Inc., who also opposes the ordinance amendment.

“The marinas brought experts with decades of experience in the field of rentals and service, which were ignored by two of the three commissioners,” said Jacobs in an email to the Times-News. “Additionally, instead of obtaining a special exemption for his one property from the Zoning Appeals Board, he took a different route and requested a zoning ordinance amendment for all properties through the county commissioners. This 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.”

During the hearing, Meagher indicated that Lakeside Creamery had 56 parking spaces that will fit all uses. Meagher said he heard all the concerns about safety and would take it under advisement.

“Our goal is that our customers and our guests would stay all on our property,” said Meagher. “We aren’t looking at them crossing the street. … Our goal was to provide another service to the community that our guests are looking to have. Our space is very similar to other spaces in size and parking. We do have the ability to accommodate our guests.”

Bob Nickle, general manager of Bill’s Marine Service, asked, “How can you say no to one and yes to another? It (zoning ordinance) is to govern growth in the Deep Creek watershed. If you keep making small amendments to it, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. I don’t think it’s fair that someone is requesting to change the rules mid-stream.”

The commissioners also received four letters of opposition to the amendment in the ordinance, according to Raley.

“To grant this individual an exception would do little to benefit anyone other than the individual at the cost of unfairly penalizing those of us who are willing to comply with regulations,” wrote Brian C. O’Brien of Silver Tree Marine in an email to the commissioners.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com

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