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Residents speak on rezoning

March 08, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

For the third time in three years, the Washington County Commissioners held a public hearing on a Clear Spring rezoning Monday night.

The county's proposal would reduce the amount of highway interchange zoning around the town, changing most of it to rural-residential and agricultural land.

The county twice before tried unsuccessfully to rezone the area, which extends north of town to the south side of Broadfording Road and east to Ashton Road. It reaches west of Big Spring Road and south of Interstate 70.

If approved, the rezoning would limit the potential for commercial development at Clear Spring's outskirts. For many residents, it represents a way to preserve a pristine farming community and control growth.

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At Monday night's hearing, two Hagerstown residents who want to develop land that would be affected by the rezoning spoke against it. Nine Clear Spring residents spoke in favor of it.

"We hear a lot about Smart Growth. In this instance, Smart Growth will destroy our community," said Betty Shank, a former mayor of Clear Spring. The town doesn't yet have the sewer, water and other services to support growth, she said.

"Human nature is such that you can't open the door to everyone," said Arthur James, an organic farmer. "They won't just steal the eggs, they'll kill the chickens."

Lisa Poole said Clear Spring is the only town left in the county with its rural character intact. "You're not going to be able, once it's gone, to get it back," she said.

Don Bragunier said he opposes the rezoning because it would prevent him from building a convenience store on his property north of U.S. 40.

Vincent Groh, whose company owns property west of Md. 68 and south of U.S. 40, said he will not build something large like a mall or factory.

"I don't know what they think they're going to have up there," he said. "What can you put on a couple acres that will destroy the town?"

Groh bought the land in 1991 with the understanding that it would keep its commercial zoning, he said. A rezoning would devalue the land, he said.

"I'm asking to be treated fair," he said.

Groh, who is a lawyer, said the rezoning wasn't legal and hinted that he would challenge its approval. "Why are you doing this now? I'm sure the judge will ask that if you go to court," he said.

Testimony may be submitted for 10 days. The planning commission will then make a recommendation to the County Commissioners on the proposal.

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