On Monday, July 19, the Kent County Zoning Commission Board of Appeals heard a challenge to the zoning status of the Frank M Jarman American Legion Post 36 at 9155 American Legion Dr. in Chestertown. Due to the length of testimony, the hearing will continue next Tuesday, July 27.
More than 100 people attended the appeal hearing.
The zoning appeal was entered by Thomas Voshell and Chesmer Community Association, citing that property, zoned as “nonconforming use” in 1962, is no longer in compliance with that zoning regulation in an area primarily zoned as residential. Under Maryland law, a zoning appeal requires the “party asserting the existence of a nonconforming use has the burden of proving it.”
Daniel Saunders, Attorney at MacCloud Law Group represented Chesmer Community Association. Attorneys Stephen Meehan and Mitchell Mowell represented the American Legion.
The property is currently in the process of being purchased by Minary’s Dream Alliance, Incorporated, a non-profit organization founded by Doncella Wilson and Paul Tue to meet the needs of Kent County youth and families. MDA has been using the facility for services like coordinating the Food for Elderly program, among others.
Typically, a “nonconforming use” property is defined as “as any lawfully existing use of a structure or of land that does not conform to the applicable use regulations of the district in which it is located.
In November, 2020, Planning and Zoning Director Bill Mackey wrote that the Land Use Ordinance had already made a determination of the nonconforming property and that the property had not been abandoned or changed, and that since it was built in 1960 it was a validated nonconforming use.
Monday night’s appeal hearing began with a motion by Stephen Meehan to dismiss the proceedings because of a procedural error in Mr. Mackey’s determination process—that no public notice had been given during his determination process. The Board voted to continue the process and that going back to Zoning Administrator would cause a lengthy delay in the proceedings.
Attorney for the Board, Christopher Drummond, clarified that if the hearing was to proceed, “it would be an appeal of an administrator’s determination.”
“The Board has the jurisdiction on this matter. The Zoning Administrator said you have the right to appeal his determination,” Saunders told the Board.
As per Saunders request for a hearing, “Applicants seek a determination by the Board of Appeals, pursuant to Article VIII, Section 1.7, of the County Zoning Ordinance, that the subject property is not a nonconforming property and that any uses on the property must conform to those permitted uses in the Critical Area Residential zone,” proceedings continued.
Stephen Meehan spent time providing a history of the facility’s use by the American Legion from 1960 to the present. John Diller (not shown in the video clip), an active member of the Legion since 1964 described many of the organization’s functions from social events, hosting other professional organizations, blood-drives, fundraising events to support the facility, and members’ socials. His memory of the facility and the property predated the 1962 nonconformity determination.
Commander Ralph Morgan, USN retired and financial officer for the American Legion, described the long-standing responsibilities met to keep all licensing affiliated with the property current, noting that there had been no lapses over the years. He also reviewed health inspection documents and the replacement of the heating oil storage tanks.
Minary’s Dream Alliance, Inc. co-founder Paul Tue spoke to the activities and services provided by Minary’s Dream at the American Legion facility, including partnering with Washington College and Kent Cultural Alliance for a month-long student project studying the history of Kent County, Kent County football coaches meetings, and GLOW (Girls Learning Our Worth) meetings. Minary’s Dream Alliance, by arrangement with the American Legion, have been on the Legion post premises for two years providing their services to the community.
“We want to continue being a resource for the community,” Tue said.
By 10 pm, both parties agreed to adjourn the meeting and reconvene at 7 pm, Tuesday, July 27. At that time Mr. Saunders will make his presentation on behalf of Mr. Voshell and the Chesmar Community Association.
This summation is a mere snapshot of the two-and-half-hour meeting. The entire meeting may be found on the County website when it is posted.
This clip is approximately eight minutes in length.