It's one of the oldest ruses in Harford County land use planning, or shall we say mis-planning, that we've written about ad nauseum.
Someone buys some land and then tries to get its zoning changed to allow a different usage. The most recent case involves Legends Vineyard on Asbury Road in Churchville. The owners have a 2,000-vine vineyard, and would like to add another 1,600 vines, on their 6.17-acre property. No problem.
The problem is they want to add a retail building to hold tastings and sell wine. That is not a permitted use on parcels smaller than 10 acres in zoning designation. The owners, according to testimony before the Harford County Council last week, thought when they bought the property in 2005 and launched the vineyard in 2008 that they though would be allowed to have a retail operation. Here's why: The original regulation was a minimum of 20 acres for such an operation, but the owners thought that was going to be reduced to five acres, they said, but it was only reduced to 10 acres.
Testimony before the county council was the owners would not have bought the property and launched the business if they had known the regulation was going to be reduced to 10 acres instead of five.
The zoning hearing examiner has already denied the request and the owners have appealed to the county council in hopes of getting what the zoning and the zoning hearing examiner have said they can't have. This happens all the time. Someone buys some land that has some restrictions, which limits its value and is sold at a discount. Then they try to change the zoning or get some other special dispensation that not only allows them to do what had been prohibited on the land when they bought it, but also to do so at a reduced cost because they bought the land more cheaply than it would have been sold with a different zoning.
Every time these kinds of requests come up, the county should just say no. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the vineyard owners can form sort of partnership with a nearby retail produce operation to accomplish what they want. The other option is to buy another four acres adjacent to the six they have.