John Nelson Retires
John Nelson retired as Director of the Garrett County Office of Planning and Land Management on January 31 after serving the county for over 37 years, most of which were in a leadership position.
During his tenure, John worked with twelve different Boards of County Commissioners and was honored by proclamations from the Governor, the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates at a dinner a week prior to his retirement. State Senator George C. Edwards presented the Senate’s resolution and noted that when John started his work here, he himself was sitting as one of the Garrett County Commissioners.
John’s 37-year tenure made him the longest-serving Planning Director in all of Maryland.
Karen Spiker was one offering comments and praise. In essence, she reported how John and she had originally clashed with messages such as “Karen, you need a permit for that.” She said that she had tried to find ways to avoid the requirements she did not like. But, then found out the best way to proceed was to share her ideas and objectives with John who would then help her find pathways to them within the applicable codes.
John was appointed to these leadership positions starting about two years after the first zoning ordinance was adopted for the Deep Creek area in 1975. This had been preceded by A Plan for Deep Creek (1972) and the first Comprehensive Plan 1974. In the mid-1980s, the 1972 Plan for Deep Creek was revised (1985) and the zoning ordinance updated (1987). In the mid-1990s, the County adopted a “Second Comprehensive Plan” (1995) and again revised the Zoning Ordinance (1997). The county also adopted Subdivision controls and protections for sensitive areas starting in 1997.
The Staff estimates that John attended approximately 400 Planning Commission meetings, from 1977 to the present and provided staffing to the Planning Commission since 1985.
John also served as the Zoning Administrator for all of the towns in the county at one time or another, including Mt. Lake Park and Loch Lynn from the beginning until his retirement.
In 1994, John also oversaw the enactment of the countywide 911 addressing program.
From 1977 to January 2014 there were approximately 8,290 Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Permit applications. During John’s tenure as director, approximately 420 Special Exceptions, 18 Interpretive Hearings and 700 Variances cases were heard by the Deep Creek Watershed Board of Zoning Appeals.
The Garrett County Subdivision Ordinance first adopted in 1997 and comprehensively amended in 2010, lead to 1,818 subdivisions. John was involved in its creation, various amendments and all of the resulting subdivisions.
The Deep Creek Lake Transient Vacation Rental Unit Ordinance was passed in March of 2006, under John’s direction.
The Garrett County Sensitive Areas Ordinance was first adopted in 1997 and comprehensively amended in 2010.
John directed the preparation and adoption of the 1998, 2005, and 2012 Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plans.
John directed the preparation and adoption of the following comprehensive planning documents: 1993- A Second Close Look at Garrett County, 1995- A New Development Plan for Garrett County and the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.
The POA congratulates John on his work and wishes him a happy and healthy retirement.
This article and the attached time line were provided to the POA for publication by former board member, Lindsley Williams.