The Frederick County Council will take another look at legislation that would help a 30-year mulching business outside of New Market.
Last winter, county zoning officials found that Bussard Brothers Landscaping Supply has been operating its mulching business for years on general commercial property, which isn’t allowed by the county’s zoning ordinance.
On Tuesday, council members voted 5-2 to reject a bill from Councilman Billy Shreve (R) that would have added mulching operations to the county’s general commercial zone.
Shreve’s colleagues felt that his bill — which allowed mulching operations as a special exception in the zone, but did not include exclusionary criteria — was too broad and the intensity of wood-chipping operations could be at odds with other businesses such as department stores, pharmacies, restaurants and medical offices.
Shreve’s measure garnered support only from Councilman Kirby Delauter (R).
Other council members instead voiced support for a forthcoming bill being drafted by Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) that might resolve the issues facing Bussard — and alleviate their concerns.
“I understand that Councilman Chmelik has been working very hard to try to craft a more narrow bill, one that is more of a scalpel and less of a sledgehammer and I believe that it would behoove us as a board to give him a chance to come forward and discuss that,” council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said.
The 20-minute debate between council members became heated at times.
When Keegan-Ayer noted that a recently passed utility-scale solar ordinance took 18 months to refine, Shreve interjected that the length of time spent on that measure was “absurd.”
“Frankly, I would have encouraged you to go back and redefine your bill, but it has become clear that you don’t want to do that,” Keegan-Ayer said in response.
Shreve said earlier in the meeting that he’d agreed to put off an earlier vote by the council so members could change his bill — but none of them came forward with any solutions.
Shreve also noted other intensive uses that are allowed in the general commercial zone, including racetracks, arenas and lumberyards.
As a result, Keegan-Ayer and Chmelik said the entire list of uses in the zone might warrant a review by the council.
Chmelik said he originally wanted to amend Shreve’s proposal, but that would have pushed the bill past a 90-day deadline by which the council must vote on pending legislation. For instance, the amendment would have taken weeks to go to the county’s Planning Commission — which voted 7-0 against the original bill — for an advisory vote before coming back to the council.
A full rewrite also allows Chmelik to include a list of businesses that could not be next door to a mulching operation, in an attempt to alleviate safety concerns.
Chmelik said the introduction of his bill is scheduled for the council’s Sept. 19 hearing.
He will send an email this week to the county executive’s office asking administrators to continue forgoing fines for Bussard Brothers while Chmelik’s legislation is pending.
Outside the council chambers, Rick Bussard said he’d not had any problems with the county since the issue first came to light; county planning officials told the council in July that the business had received a courtesy violation and was not accruing fines.