THE ISSUE IS ARCANE — unless you own land divided by a publicly maintained road and want to subdivide it.
The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Friday to ask the county attorney's office to study an amendment to county subdivision regulations proposed by two Westminster lawyers.
The amendment would allow an owner whose land is divided by a publicly maintained road to obtain one more lot when subdividing his property.
"We're not talking about opening a Pandora's box," attorneyClark R. Shaffer said.
He and attorney Charles D. Hollman said they are trying to get into writing a practice that had been allowed for at least 18 years.
Franklin G. Schaeffer, chief of the Bureau ofDevelopment Review, said he isn't sure how many people would be affected by the proposed change. He studied tax maps, but could not conclude how many might be affected, he said.
The issue arose about a year ago when Harry H. Lehr of Westminster was denied permission to subdivide a 67-acre property he owns on Blacks Schoolhouse Road off Route 97 near the Pennsylvania line.
Lehr proposed dividing the land,which is intersected by Blacks Schoolhouse Road, into four pieces --lots measuring 8.5 acres, 10 acres and 45 acres on one side of the road and a 4-acre lot on the other side.
County staff denied his request in December 1990, saying he was entitled only to three lots -- two off-conveyances and a remainder lot.
(Subdivision regulations allow a property owner in any zone to create two off-conveyances -- lots created without going through the subdivision process.)
Shaffer and Hollman said it had been common practice until then to allow a property owner to create two off-conveyances and a remainder lot on one side of the road and a third separate parcel on the other. The property owner then could subdivide the third parcel, but was not entitled to any off-conveyances on it.
Allowing a third parcel usually means the property owner gets only one more lot than he would have if the parcel wasn't allowed, Hollman said.
"That road gave them (property owners) the benefit of not having to go through the subdivisionprocess to get the third parcel," commission chairwoman Barbara JeanDixon said.
When attorneys asked county staffers why Lehr's request was denied, they were told that the county attorney's office had issued an opinion in another case that said the practice did not conform to subdivision regulations, which had been amended in July 1989.
Hollman and Shaffer, who worked on a committee that helped amend the regulations in 1989, said the revisions weren't intended to change the practice of allowing a property owner to create a separate parcelon one side of the road.
Edmund R. Cueman, director of the countyPlanning Department, said he was involved in the revisions in 1989, and has no memory of discussing a change in the practice.
"It was not our intent to change this," he said.
He cautioned commission members that if they adopt the lawyers' proposed amendment they must be careful not to create "a million other problems" as a result.
Schaeffer said if the amendment is adopted, the commission would be allowing a third parcel without detailing how it should be handled.
The two attorneys said the amendment corrects the problem without opening the door to other problems.
"We believe the language does the trick," Shaffer said.
Only two of the current planning commission members were on the board in 1989 -- Dixon and Louis J. Pecoraro.
Referring the issue to the county attorney for study does not mean the commission has decided to adopt the amendment, planning commission member Zeno M. Fisher Jr. said.