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County reaffirms rezoning position

September 01, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners voted again Tuesday against a rezoning needed for a controversial proposed 230-unit residential development on Mount Aetna Road.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said the vote does not stop or block the developer's request for the 36.7-acre property to be rezoned and annexed into the City of Hagerstown.

The 3-0 vote could, though, become important legal evidence if the annexation opponents go to court to try to stop the project, Douglas said. Some of the residents living near the affected property are being represented by William C. Wantz, a Hagerstown lawyer.

About 100 people attended Tuesday's meeting at the Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. hall.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said the issue is "ripe" for a legal appeal because the commissioners have received four conflicting legal opinions, from attorneys representing the city, the county, the developer and annexation opponents.

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The County Commissioners refused to approve the rezoning because they felt the requested residential zoning classification was significantly different from the current agricultural classification.

"To me, it doesn't make sense," Commissioner William J. Wivell said.

The commissioners took a similar vote at a June 2 meeting.

The property owner is Triad Properties and the developer is a group headed by Hagerstown builder Wes Churchey.

Churchey said he was not surprised by the vote and it will not affect his plans.

The vote was 3-0. Commissioner John L. Schnebly abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest and Commissioner Paul L. Swartz was out of state.

The developer wants to build 230 housing units in duplexes, triplexes and quads on the property, the former Fox Deceived Plantation and the Miller farm.

Tuesday's request was slightly different from an earlier one in that the underlying zoning is more restrictive and would prohibit townhouses. The underlying zoning designation would become effective if the development does not occur.

The project, if approved, would have a Planned Urban Development overlay on top of the property. Such an overlay allows for a mixture of residential and commercial development.

Douglas said the difference is "insignificant and therefore does not change the recommendation of staff."

Annexation opponents said there is traffic congestion in the area and a new development would only make it worse.

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