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Huzzah, fair south Arundelers, Ren Fest willst not be in Lothian!

Success is sometimes not a blessing. The Maryland Renaissance Festival has become so popular over the past three decades that is has outgrown its site in Crownsville. Relocation, however, is a complicated process -- a complicated process that has just hit a major roadblock: Anne Arundel County's administrative hearing officer has denied the festival's request for a zoning exception that would have allowed it to move to what organizers thought would be a workable site.

If only residents near the site had shared that opinion. Residents and zoning officials have opposed the fair's move to rural Lothian in the southern part of the county. For the most part, their objections concern the increased traffic -- more vehicles and more people -- during the fair's run.

At the recent administrative hearing, Lothian area residents voiced their opinions about the impact the fair would have on their quiet, rural community. Their comments may not have fallen on deaf ears, but the hearing officer was technically not able to include the traffic and noise concerns as he considered the request for the special exception.

To obtain a special exception, the applicant must meet certain criteria. For the Renaissance Festival, traffic and noise was not one of the four criteria in play. What the organizers did have to worry about was whether the Lothian site is accessible from an arterial road -- that is, that fairgoers will not snake through neighborhoods to access the site -- and whether the new site was on a scenic or historic road.

Route 4 is the nearest arterial road to the site, but the only way to get from that road to the site is to cross the service road. That, the Planning and Zoning Office and the hearing officer said, did not qualify as "direct access." Further, the site is on Upper Pindell Road, which has been designated scenic and historic -- strike two.

The third strike for the hearing officer was that relaxing those rules for the fair would "effectively disembowel" the county's rules regarding festivals. The Maryland Renaissance Festival will not be relocating to Lothian.

The festival has the right to appeal the decision. If the Board of Appeals does not receive an appeal within 30 days, though, the Renaissance Fair may well be back in Crownsville -- this year, at least.

Sources: 

The Baltimore Sun, "Md. Renaissance Festival denied zoning needed for move to Lothian," Pamela Wood, June 19, 2014

Capital Gazette, "Zoning office gives thumbs down to Renaissance Festival move," E.B. Furgurson III, June 11, 2014

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