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Huge area may be rezoned

November 16, 1996

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

For now it is hundreds of acres of rolling farmland south of Hagerstown, but a mammoth rezoning proposal could lead to commercial and residential development replacing the cornfields and rock outcroppings.

The rezoning request, which encompasses nearly one square mile of land, is the largest in recent memory in Washington County. The 612 acres, presently zoned agriculture, stretches from Interstate 70 to the north to Rench Road and beyond to the south, and from Downsville Pike on the west to nearly Sharpsburg Pike on the east.

"It's a very large rezoning. . . . This is probably one of the largest (ever)," said County Planning Director Robert Arch.

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The County Commissioners and the Planning Commission will hold a joint hearing on the Rench Road property and others rezonings Monday at 7 p.m. in Courtroom No. 1 of the Washington County Courthouse.

Landowner Larry B. Artz is asking that 467 acres of the property be turned into a highway interchange designation that would allow for a variety of heavy commercial and light industrial uses, from shopping centers to manufacturers. Running through that part of the property is a Norfolk Southern rail line.

Artz is requesting that the remaining 145 acres be turned into a rural residential designation. That allows for two housing units per acre. Part of the property is in the county's urban growth area, which allows rural residential development of 2.9 units per acre.

Artz said he has no specific plans for the property at this point, nor have there been any development offers made to him. He said he simply wants the rezoning so he won't be restricted to just farming on the land.

"There's no money in farming the way it is right now," Artz said.

He said the rail line influenced his decision to ask for the highway interchange zoning because that would be attractive to a business needing rail access. The residential area would be closer to existing residential development.

Some neighbors living in the area said they are interested in seeing what becomes of the property, especially if it involves development that increases traffic, noise and causes other problems in the area.

"I might be sorry later, but I'm not that worried," said Carleton Faler, who lives near the land in question.

In a letter to the county, State Highway Administration officials wrote they have "several concerns" with the development of the property. They requested a traffic study when specific development plans are available.

Also, the property is not in a county water and sewer district. Getting the property placed in a district would require a change to the county's water and sewer plan.

The Planning Commission will decide at a future meeting whether to recommend the rezoning be approved. The County Commissioners would make the final rezoning decision.

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