WESTMINSTER -- City Planning and Zoning Commission members will study a zoning disclosure ordinance more before sending it to the City Council for approval.
Proposed by the Carroll County Association of Realtors, the legislation would require property owners or real estate brokers to provide copies of the zoning map, Westminster's comprehensive plan and the subdivision plat to perspective buyers.
"We've been caught up in a situation, particularly in Wakefield Valley, that the disclosure was not in writing," said Sylvia Gorman, president of the association. "After the property was sold, there was some question whether the owner was told about the mining or the proposed commercial strip in the area."
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Sunday's paper should have said that a violation of a proposed zoning disclosure law in Westminster is being proposed as a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months.
The Carroll County Sun regrets the error.
Although he said he was surprised that purchasers do not request zoning information, city Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard said disclosures are necessary.
"It's important that people have this kind of information," he said.
Beyard suggested that either the development plan, the preliminary plan or the site plan also be provided, since these give residents a better idea of what will happen in the area.
"These provide the basic types of information important to a purchaser of property," he said.
Realtor Marshall "Mac" Shaw defended the proposed legislation by saying most property in Westminster city limits is not sold by Realtors.
"Sixty percent (of the transactions) are handled by other entities than Realtors," he said, adding that private sellers don't always know the zoning regulations they should tell buyers.
The legislation also provides that buyers can waive their right to the information.
However, commission member Marjorie Lohnes said she felt the legislation was unnecessary.
"The Realtors should regulate their own industry and make sure that all of them follow it," she said. "That's poor business judgment (not to disclose the information)."
Developer Martin K. P. Hill agreed, citing the Pavilions situation, where most Wakefield Valley citizens said they were unaware that the commercial zoning would allow a shopping center to be built near them.
"Anyone who looked at the plans would not have had enough understanding to know what could be built there," he said, adding that most Realtors would not take the time to explain the situation to the customer.
"If the intent is to truly inform the people, you can do that without an ordinance," he said.
Since the proposal is only in the draft stage, it does not specify what the penalty would be for violation. However, it does state that the sale will still be valid if the disclosure is not made.