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Triad rezoning recommended

June 30, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Hagerstown Planning Commission Wednesday recommended annexing and rezoning 36.7 acres along Mount Aetna Road near the edge of Hagerstown, clearing the way for a controversial 230-unit residential development.

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The Hagerstown City Council will make the final decision on annexing the land from Washington County and rezoning it. The matter is to go before the council later this month, city planners said.

If the council approves the annexation and rezoning, Triad Properties will sell the property, currently zoned agricultural, to a development company owned by Hagerstown developer and construction company owner Wes Churchey.

"We are very happy at this stage," Jim Stone, a partner in Churchey's company, said after the meeting. Stone, who also is vice chairman of the planning commission, sat in the hallway during the discussion and abstained from voting or speaking on the issue.

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About 25 people attended the meeting, during which John Urner, a city attorney, walked the Planning Commission through several legal and policy questions.

The commission voted on several of the questions rather than taking one vote on the entire project because Planning Commission Chairman Douglas S. Wright Jr. said it was possible residents of the area would challenge the project in court.

The Planning Commission voted as the developer requested on all items but one. Triad had requested an R2 rezoning but the commission recommended the property be zoned R1 instead. R1 is the least dense of the residential zonings, prohibiting town homes and duplexes.

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

The land is part of the old Fox Deceived plantation, on which a 1770s-era log house stood until it was torn down in early March.

The Planning Commission also voted 3-2 to put a Planned Urban Development overlay on top of the property. Such an overlay allows for a mixture of residential and commercial development.

Commission members Dennis C. Miller and Frederick A. Nugent voted against the overlay. Miller said it would not be compatible with the community.

Due to approval of the overlay, the lower density zoning would not require changes in the project plans, said Planner Debbie Everhart.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, an ex-officio member of the Planning Commission, abstained from voting.

"They voted for a bigger hodgepodge then we have now," said Allan Powell, who lives at the corner of Bittersweet Drive and Mount Aetna Road.

The proposed development is not compatible with the area, he said. Powell said he has a hard time getting out of his driveway already due to the amount of traffic in the area.

Public input was not allowed during at the meeting. At one point Powell said he had one question. Told he couldn't ask it, he said, "That's tragic."

When he tried to speak again later, Wright said, "That's enough."

The Washington County Commissioners on June 1 voted 4-0 against the proposed change in zoning. County Attorney Richard Douglas said the County Commissioners could legally oppose the proposed zoning change because they found it is "substantially different" from the land use listed in the County Master Plan.

The Planning Commission disagreed Wednesday, saying the change is not substantially different from the Master Plan.

A May 25 public hearing on the matter drew about 200 people to City Hall. Most of those people seemed to oppose the requests.

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.

After the hearing, City Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner and J. Wallace McClure said they would oppose the requests and Councilman William M. Breichner said he probably would approve the requests Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein and Boyer did not say whether they were for or against the requests.

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