With the Frederick County Council scheduled to vote next week on a bill that would change zoning to allow a scuba diving center at a quarry near Woodsboro, the legislation will have an endorsement from the county’s Planning Commission.
The Frederick County Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend approval of the bill.
The bill, sponsored by council Vice President Michael Blue (R), would amend the county’s zoning laws to allow a “scuba facility” to the list of activities that are permitted in the county’s mineral mining zones.
Under the proposed bill, a scuba facility would be allowed in mineral mining districts as long as it uses an existing, open-pit mine that is fed by a natural spring.
It would define a scuba facility as “any building, structure or area of land and water that is used for scuba diving education and recreation.” A facility could include bathrooms, showers, areas to store supplies, refuel scuba tanks, and other areas that are usually part of a scuba operation.
The bill would affect a plan to build the Juturna Springs scuba center near Woodsboro, with possible features such as an ecology center, RV parking, a possible clubhouse or restaurant and other amenities.
The facility is estimated to cost around $30 million.
It’s expected to draw customers from Maryland, southern Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, as many as 300 to 400 divers a day on summer weekends, Matt Skogebo, a Baltimore-area scuba instructor involved in the proposed project, told the Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Commissioners questioned whether the zoning amendment would open up other mineral mining zones in the county.
Most mines don’t want people diving in their pits because of liability and other issues, Skogebo said.
Other mines in Frederick County are limestone quarries that don’t have the water flow that the Woodsboro one does, said Brad Hill, the property’s owner.
The bill specifies spring-fed quarries partly to avoid that problem, Blue said Wednesday.
There are lots of mines that have filled up with water, but the water has stagnated and doesn’t offer the visibility that this site does, he said.
Planning Commissioner Sharon Suarez questioned whether the bill was correct as an accessory use, since a scuba center wouldn’t be related to a property’s mineral mining use.
The county should create a use that allows activities on reclaimed mineral mining sites, she said.
The council is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday.