Washington County Commissioners grant “express approval” for zoning alignment in Hancock annexation effort

by Kate Shunney

Washington County commissioners last Tuesday voted unanimously to grant their “express approval” for Hancock to move forward in bringing three land parcels into the town limits.

The vote on January 12 does not finalize the town’s steps to add the properties, which total 130.8 acres, into the Town of Hancock. Instead, the vote by the Washington County Commissioners just lets those parcels move from their current zoning designation of “Highway Interchange” into the Town of Hancock’s “Business General” zoning designation.

Jill Baker, the county’s Director of Planning & Zoning, said the two zoning designations have to be “substantially similar” in order for the county to give this kind of approval.

Baker said the county’s approval would mean the town and property owners could immediately move ahead with development. Without “express approval,” the parcels annexed into the Town of Hancock could not be developed for a period of five years.

She told commissioners that the town is seeking to add the three parcels into the town limits “for the purpose of growing their tax base” and to attract commercial and industrial development.

Baker clarified that the county was not approving annexation, but “granting that zoning is similar.”

Commissioner Randy Cline asked if a company came onto those properties seeking a “Highway Interchange” zoning designation, could the parcels revert to that zoning category?

“No – that would be under the town’s zoning,” Baker said.

“To clarify, the town would make that decision from here forward,” said Commissioner Wayne Keefer.

Keefer reminded commissioners that he had come to them recently seeking the county’s support for an effort to add a highway interchange off I-70 to the area north of Hancock being annexed along Warfordsburg Road.

Commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of “express approval” for the annexation. Their decision applies to three parcels – a 64.38-acre property owned by Lands of Orchard Business Park Limited Partnership, a 1.88-acre parcel owned by the same company and  a 64.36-acre parcel owned by FRM LLC. It also includes 3.165 acres of right-of-way along Warfordsburg Road, according to county documents.

Those documents indicate the owners of the property intend to make the parcels available for commercial development once the town’s annexation process is complete and approved. That land will also be included in construction and upgrades to the town’s water and sewer services, documents say.