The Monocacy River Resource Protection Area was removed from the 2016 draft river management plan Wednesday by a 5-1 vote.
Vice Chairman Sam Roop proposed the removal of the resource protection area, which would have stretched 300 to 500 feet from the river’s banks. It extended much farther in places where the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain extends away from the river.
“It’s taken a lot of thought, because we had four or five comment periods and with 200-and-something letters, it was a strong majority” against the resource protection area, Roop said after the Monocacy Scenic River Citizen Advisory Board’s meeting.
Chairman George Grillon, Bill Hensley, Mona Becker, Chris Heyn and Roop voted to remove the area from the draft plan’s text and maps. Carroll County member Jim Wieprecht voted to keep the area, and said he thought the river board should have discussed the area before voting to remove it.
Frederick County members Jim Dertzbaugh, Jack Lynch and Robert Whiting did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Seventy-seven percent of the proposed resource protection area sat within the FEMA flood plain, which is already tightly regulated. Landowners said the resource protection area threatened their property rights.
“We felt they were infringing on our property rights, and we put our foot down,” said Robert Ramsburg, president of the Frederick County Farm Bureau. He said he was relieved to see the protection area removed from the draft plan.
The river board received 294 written comments. It heard roughly 10 hours of public testimony that centered on the potential problems the resource protection area could have on farms and private property along the Monocacy River.
A petition, with a reported 1,400 signatures, was delivered to the river board opposing the resource protection area, said Lisa Bell, a landowner along the Monocacy who has helped organize residents in opposition of the plan.
The river board voted to host another public comment period after it finalized a new draft plan. Roop said he would rather the river board take months or a year to rework the plan than rush a plan to the counties that did not include property owners.
“Today was an encouraging day,” said Earl Bell, the husband of Lisa Bell.
Earl Bell said he was encouraged to see the river board focusing on voluntary programs and recommending that funds be channeled to programs that help interested landowners protect their farms and natural resources.
The river board voted specifically to change the word “ensure” to “encourage” on one of its recommendations to increase the voluntary tone of the plan. Heyn and Hensley opposed the change.
Bill Fisher, from near the Adams County, Pennsylvania, line, has attended multiple river board meetings. He was also encouraged by the river board’s decisions Wednesday.
“Good citizens keep an eye on what the county and board does,” Fisher said.
Several residents called for the draft plan to be discarded and for the river board to disband. It was important that this not happen, Roop said. Revising the plan and keeping landowners involved protects the credibility of the board, he said.
The river board just scratched the surface on its discussion of the submitted public comments Wednesday.
Members will read public comments submitted at the end of the public comment period, which closed Tuesday, in preparation for its next meeting on March 1 and continue to make revisions to the draft plan.