Commissioners refuse to rezone Artz Farm

June 24, 1997


Staff Writer

What would have been one of the largest rezonings in Washington County history fell short of that mark Tuesday night when the Washington County Commissioners refused to change the designation on more than half of the 611.5-acre Artz Farm.

The Washington County Commissioners refused to rezone 376.8 acres of the property on Rench Road south of Hagerstown for industrial and commercial use.

The County Commissioners, on a 3-2 vote, refused to rezone 276.8 acres to Highway Interchange 1. Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook cast the tie-breaking vote.


"I thought HI-1 was just a little too much for that area," Snook said.

The commissioners unanimously denied rezoning of 100 acres to Industrial Restricted.

They did, however, unanimously approve rezoning of 64 acres zoned Agricultural to Highway Interchange 2, a primarily residential designation, and 170.7 acres to Rural Residential.

The farm is located between the Downsville Pike and the Sharpsburg Pike north and south of Rench Road.

Frank Artz, one of the owners of the farmland, criticized the commissioners after the vote.

"You guys sure wasted an awful lot of money putting that sewer line in," he said.

Artz was referring to a recently installed sewer line that would have served the property.

After the meeting, Artz said he didn't know if he would apply for another rezoning. "I'll have to talk to the developers," he said.

Artz said he wanted to develop the land because farming no longer made sense.

"In the last 10 years there's no money in farming," he said.

Commissioner James R. Wade made the motion to deny the Highway Interchange 1 zoning and was seconded by Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers. Wade and Bowers both said that the development of the land needed to be more carefully planned. Wade said zoning the land Planned Industrial, the same designation as Allegheny Power's neighboring Friendship Technology Park, would make sure the planning process was more stringent.

Commissioner John S. Shank said any development on the property, if it were zoned Highway Interchange 1, would require a planning review.

Artz said he couldn't plan what he would put on the property until he knew what it would be zoned.

He said he planned to continue to live in his 1700s farmhouse on the property, and therefore would have reason to be careful about the kinds of development he allowed there.

"I'm not going to have neighbors that I wouldn't want," he said.

Artz said he would be happy to keep the land as a farm if the state would pay him the difference between the value of the farmland and the value if developed. He said that was at least $7,000 an acre, or more than $4 million.

The Planning Commission had recommended approval of the rezoning, with the exception of the 100 acres for which Industrial Restricted zoning had been sought.

According to a report by Senior Planner Stephen Goodrich, 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.

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