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Commissioners oppose project's zoning change

June 01, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to oppose a zoning change for the proposed annexation and development of the former Fox Deceived plantation along Mount Aetna Road near Hagerstown.

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The county and a representative of the developer disagreed on the ramifications of the county's action.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the vote does not stop the annexation process but blocks a zoning change requested for the planned housing project.

Jim Stone, a Hagerstown attorney and a partner of Hagerstown developer Wes Churchey, said the county does not have the legal authority to block the zoning change. That decision is up to the Hagerstown City Council, he said.

On Tuesday evening, Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said he was not yet familiar enough with the commissioners' action to say how it might affect the annexation and rezoning requests.

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Triad Properties, which owns the land, had requested that Hagerstown annex the property, and that the zoning designation be changed from agricultural to residential. If both requests were approved, the property would be sold to a development company owned by Churchey.

The commissioners can legally oppose a zoning change if they find it is "substantially different" from the land use listed in the current County Master Plan, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

Stone said the proposed zoning is not substantially different from the county master plan.

The commissioners disagreed.

"It is clearly not compatible to the existing area," Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said.

Neither Hagerstown nor the developers was represented at the meeting.

The commissioners vote was 4-0. Commissioner John L. Schnebly abstained due to a conflict of interest.

Development plans call for 230 housing units in brick quads, triples and duplexes to be built on the 36.7 acres between Mount Aetna Road and the Brightwood Acres, Londontowne and Fairway Meadows subdivisions.

The commissioners considered calling for a referendum vote on the annexation by residents in the area, but discarded the idea when Douglas said only one property owner, Triad, would be eligible to vote in that election.

The proposed development was overwhelmingly opposed by an estimated 200 people at a three-hour public hearing before the Hagerstown City Council last week.

Residents expressed fear the development would hurt their neighborhood by greatly increasing traffic, creating additional flooding problems and putting a strain on the public schools.

Many of the residents said they would not object to single-family homes being developed there but have a problem with a large number of units. The county's current zoning would allow single-family homes and duplexes.

The development would have tree-lined streets and walking paths and each housing unit would have a two-car garage in the back. The average price for each unit would be about $175,000, Churchey said.

Councilmen J. Wallace McClure and Lewis C. Metzner said they oppose granting the requests.

The site of the planned development is on the same property on which a 1770s-era log house stood until it was demolished in early March.

The demolition was criticized because the Washington County Permits Department approved the demolition without verifying the applicant's claim that the property was not historical.

The house, on a plantation called Fox Deceived, was built by Conrad Hogmire. In 1776, Hogmire became one of the county's first commissioners.

- Staff Writer Dan Kulin contributed to this story.

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