Some residents oppose Artz Farm rezoning

March 07, 1997


Staff Writer

An attempt to open up 611.5 acres of the Artz farm off Rench Road south of Hagerstown to commercial, industrial and residential development has sparked a debate among area residents.

Doris Rager has lived in a mobile home at 17920 Rench Road for about 25 years, and said she doesn't want to give up the country setting.

"I've always liked the idea that this was out here in the country. If he rezones, there goes my peace of mind. I'm not for it at all."


Rager said she plans on moving if Artz develops the land. "My husband and I both said that if we're going to have that kind of nonsense, we're going to be forced out of our home."

She said already worries about the safety of her grandchildren because of the increased traffic on Rench Road from nearby developments.

Vicki Pillis, a resident of nearby Pleasant View Heights, said she also bought her house because of the country atmosphere. "We don't want an industrial park in our back yard," she said.

"I like to sit out in the evening on my back porch and listen to nature. I don't want to hear trucks backing up and `Welcome to Sheetz, pump three is on.'"

Others opposing the rezoning application by Larry B. Artz and Frank M. Artz plan to testify at a joint meeting of the Washington County Planning Commission and County Commissioners Monday night.

The hearing is set to begin at 7 p.m. in Courtroom No. 1 of the Washington County Courthouse.

But not all are fighting the rezoning.

One neighbor, Carleton Faler, said the Artzes should have the right to develop the land. "It's their land and I think what they do with it should be their concern...within reason," he said.

Faler said he wasn't a fan of all the development in the area, but said it was going to happen one way or another. "Let's face it, we're right on a path of growth from the city," Faler said.

The rezoning request is the largest individual rezoning in recent memory in Washington County, according to county planning officials. The site 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.

According to a staff report by Senior Planner Stephen T. Goodrich, if the site is rezoned and fully developed, as many as 987 semi-detached single family housing units and 1,024 apartments could be constructed on the 234.7 acres zoned rural residential and highway interchange 2.

Goodrich noted that he didn't take into account space that might be needed for roads or otherwise restricted by regulations.

Becky Stanley, of Downsville, about six miles away, said developing the land would be a shame. "It's one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. The thought of seeing that filled with factories and commercial businesses bothers me."

Stanley said that General Robert E. Lee's army retreated to a ridge on the farm to wait for the elevated Potomac to recede during the Civil War.

"One thing that is worrisome is that they haven't presented a development plan, so all we can do is expect the worst."

David Pool, another Pleasant View Heights resident, said it didn't make sense to put an industrial zone next to existing residential development.

"There hasn't been enough change in the neighborhood to warrant changing the zone," he said. "Most of this land is outside of the urban growth area, and for that reason it probably shouldn't be approved," Pool said.

Pool said there are already thousands of acres elsewhere in the county and in the urban growth area ready for development, and said more wasn't needed. If the land had to be developed, the Artzes can already develop the land for residential uses with an agricultural zoning designation, Pool said.

Pleasant View resident Ralph Kline emphasized that he didn't have anything personally against the Artzes. "This is our community. We'd like to see it stay the way it is."

Neighbor Robert Ardinger said he hoped a compromise keeping future development residential could be worked out.

"If we lose, my wife and I, we're already looking in West Virginia," he said.

Frank Artz said Friday he didn't want to comment on the rezoning.

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