The Lake Lowdown – Issue 3
Mini-Marinas and Munchie Monkeys
Is the future of DCL filled with Mini-Marinas and Munchie Monkies?
Mini-Marinas and Monkeying Around with DCL Zoning
Early in the year, Lakeside Creamery owner Bill Meagher submitted a request for a special exception to the County’s Zoning and Land Development Department to operate a jet ski rental and a tour boat operation. Meagher needed the exception because he does not have the required 2 acres for a full marina; he has 10,000 square feet. The County Planning Commission reviewed and approved Meagher’s request, creating a new land use in the DCL watershed—the Boat Rental as a Separate Service Business or the “mini-marina” (http://bit.ly/gczoning).
It would seem logical zoning decisions impacting lake and buffer strip use should involve both DNR Lake Manager and the Policy and Review Board, appointed by the Governor to oversee Lake Management. The County did not include the PRB in the decision process nor did the County inform or solicit comments from the lake stakeholders. The Lake Manager determined there was no need to involve the Policy and Review Board, stating “The request falls within the parameters of the lake regulations and the lake use data available” (http://bit.ly/prb04mins).
With substantial political push-back, the Board of County Commissioners reviewed the Planning Commission’s decision and supported it with a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Railey voting against the decision. Marina owners are now appealing the decision, filing for a judicial review of the PlanningCommission’s decision to amend the DCL Zoning Ordinance.
The judicial review should include a Finding of Facts, which should cover questions of both land use and lake use. DNR Secretary, the state’s Attorney General’s Office and the Policy and Review Board are now involved but unclear how they will affect the outcome. We can hope these governmental units will learn from this process and make needed changes.
The County Planning decision and appeal were topics at the Policy and Review Board meeting on July 23. This oversight group appointed by the Governor chose to take no action, leaving open the possibility of additional mini-marinas at Deep Creek Lake.
Munchie Monkey a new commercial business, slipping around the application process and challenging Lake Management guidelines.
On June 29, Lake Management observed the Munchie Monkey (a pontoon boat decorated like a tiki hut topped by a huge monkey holding a banana), selling food and refreshments from the floating boat. Lake Management had received the Munchie Monkey’s application for a special permit on June 25, so the boat was operating without a permit from the County Health Department, as the approval process had not yet been completed. Additionally, the Munchie Monkey’s application failed to indicate the boat would be highly decorated, so the initial sighting by DNR on June 29 was a shocker to staff.
Eight years ago, there was a big to-do about a proposal for a large tour boat. Lake Management worked with the Policy and Review Board on this matter and draft guidelines for tour boats were developed in 2005 — but never enacted. These guidelines incorporate restrictions on the appearance of tour boats:
· “DNR reserves the right to approve the colors of the vessel, and will require that they be consistent with a nautical theme or subdued in colors, at the sole discretion and approval of the lake manager…
· Advertising of the vessel shall be limited to the vessel’s name, home port, phone number, and owner’s name in letters not larger than 12” in height.” (Posted by FoDCL athttp://bit.ly/tourdraft).
Why does Lake Manager, Carolyn Mathews, have to use “draft guidelines” instead of enforceable regulations. It turns out the process of enacting regulations is onerous, taking years to complete, even for the simplest changes.
Lake Management needs better, enforceable tools to protect the lake from too much monkey business.
What we have learned:
- There appears to be no control on the number of new commercial docks or how many new docks should be allowed. According to DNR Secretary Griffin (private correspondence), “Historically our dock permits have in theory been an indirect check on lakeside development; in practice over time the reality has been much different.”
- There are no clear, enforceable regulations over tour boats and other commercial boat operations at DCL.
- There is a very serious gap between the County and the State in implementation of the County’s DCL Watershed Zoning Ordinance and impacts on the lake and recreational uses. We see in the mini-marina case, is a failure of understanding all parties of a broad watershed perspective.
- What happens on land within the DCL watershed is the responsibility of the County DCL Watershed Zoning Ordinance– a zoning document which covers the watershed and should reflect basic understanding that lake uses in the watershed impacts the lake.
- We have no real watershed ordinance which brings the County and DNR together in a working partnership. We have two layers of government which do not even consult with each other regarding a clear case where the land and the lake intersect.
- August 11, 9-11 am Marcellus Shale and Deep Creek Lake Forum with speakers from varying viewpoints talking about what drilling means from a residential lake stakeholder perspective. Garrett College, Rm C-205
- August 18—Conversation with local community leaders – heads of HOAs, POAs, special interest associations and community organizations. We will meet share our work, explore common challenges and discuss the major changes at the lake in the coming year.