UPDATE : St. Mary’s County Commissioner Eric Colvin said the commissioners voted unanimously to cancel the ordinance at the Tuesday, January 12 meeting.
ST. MARY’S COUNTY, Md. — Changes to St. Mary’s County zoning regulations could mean big changes for farms and vineyards that host weddings and some say these regulations are unreasonable.
According to the ordinance, weddings are a commercial activity that have nothing to do with farming. In fact, the ordinance calls weddings “disruptive to homeowners in agricultural areas.”
The ordinance creates an entirely new zoning classification for commercial weddings. Under the new ordinance, existing commercial wedding venues must apply for zoning authorization to continue to hold weddings. These types of businesses won’t be able to apply for temporary use permits, either.
Venues already granted temporary permits can continue to operate for 6 months but can’t exceed 20 days of permit use in the year.
To keep their business open, owners must submit a site plan, notify property owners in their area, and prepare a noise suppression plan along with a scaled site map showing the exact locations of buildings, dining, bars, and dance floors.
Jack Pratt, whose wife Cindy runs Lower Notley Hall Farm in Chaptico, said the rules are restrictive and unnecessary. “The proposed ordinance is based upon complaints — very few — about our venue and one other venue, of 14 in the county.”
Pratt said he wrote a letter to St. Mary’s County Commissioners months ago denying the complaints about his farm and inviting them to come see the venue themselves. “The Commissioners did not respond to my letter, but instead turned it over to the Land Use and Growth Management Office.”
Pratt said he responded to questions from the office about the venue and asked to be part of any future discussions. However, he said the office failed to reach out to him or any other venue and instead drafted the ordinance without speaking to businesses. He said he, along with other venues and vendors, just want an opportunity to talk to commissioners before the legislation is pushed through.
Public Meeting January 26
St. Mary’s County Commissioners will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, January 26 at 6 pm in the Chesapeake Building located at 41770 Baldridge Street in Leonardtown, Maryland.
Meetings are not open to the public, but citizens can watch the meeting on St. Mary’s County Government Channel 95 or on YouTube or listen to the meeting by calling 301-579-7236; Access code: 963443#.
The public can submit comments in the following ways:
• Via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
• In writing at PO Box 653 Leonardtown, MD, 20650
• In a 3-minute or less video clip to email@example.com
• Call 301-475-4200 x 1234 to speak at the Public Hearing