Could lawsuits be on the way in Washington County?

December 5 – Last week, the Washington County Commissioners decided in a 3-2 vote to ban the creation of any new truck stops in the county as well as require any warehouses more than one million square feet to get special exception approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The vote was made without any study or analysis or recommendation from the planning commission. 

Paul Frey, president and CEO of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said, “We’re just saying follow the process. Maybe the new board that comes in this week, Tuesday, I think they get sworn in tomorrow, might rescind this. I don’t know how that process works. Some of the plaintiffs have some concerns. They have three or four more days to file a lawsuit. They have 10 days to stop the process. We’re suggesting if there’s already projects in the works, keep them going and then let’s look at how we move forward from there.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “This is the smartest thing, after they get sworn in, the first thing they should do, the smartest thing they should do is be mindful of the taxpayers and take emotion out of the equation and follow the process. These commissioners on their way out, we know that there are going to be lawsuits, and the people that are going to be paying for that? That’s the taxpayers. The new ones coming in? Rescind the whole thing and let’s do the process. That way at least we’re not opening ourselves up for immediate lawsuits.” 

The planning commission was supposed to meet in December, where the concerns would be heard. Then they would make the recommendations to the commissioners who can chose to follow or not follow those decisions. That’s how it usually happens. 

Frey said, “They’ll have the opportunity to hear some more facts from both sides and get more information.”

Ryan said, “The rescind is the most important thing. Bowman’s got deep pockets. Sheetz, they’ve got deep pockets. What about the little guy? What about the folks that are building these businesses? What about the contractors? What about the surveyors and all the little people that would be affected by this as well?” 

Frey agreed, “There’s a lot of ancillary folks that are involved, including bringing a tax base to Washington County to pay for public safety, pay for education, pay for some of the infrastructure we need. It’s a balancing act. We’re just saying let’s balance it out and let’s follow the process here.” 

Jim Kercheval of the Greater Hagerstown Committee said, “I’m not sure what the new board will do when they come in. I know the planning commission had a hearing scheduled for this week. I don’t know if they’re going to still move forward with that or not. They were trying to be prepared if the commissioners of the last board decided to put the brakes on decisions and let it go through the process it was intended to. They’ll probably wait and work through that. I imagine the new board, they’re going to have to come in. The first meeting is Tuesday, but typically that is just a little bit of fanfare. They really don’t dig into it until the following week. I imagine it would be early in 2023 before any final decisions were made if I had to guess.”