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Mt. Aetna plan approved amid protest

April 12, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Controversial development plans for 36.7 acres along Mount Aetna Road were approved by the Hagerstown Planning Commission on Wednesday, clearing the way for the first phase of construction.

Neighbors of the property to be developed voiced again their opposition to the plan.

Of the roughly 35 people who attended the Planning Commission meeting, nine spoke. All who spoke opposed the development plan, and the audience gave each speaker a round of applause.

The land to be developed is on the south side of Mount Aetna Road and is surrounded by the Brightwood Acres, Londontowne and Fairway Meadows subdivisions. The planned development has been named Greenwich Park.

The speakers at the Wednesday meeting raised concerns about increased traffic and flooding they said a new development would bring. They argued the buffer areas were not large enough, their property values would go down, and that the proposed development was not compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Hagerstown lawyer William C. Wantz, who has been representing some who oppose the development plans, said there may be legal problems with the annexation of the property into Hagerstown last year.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve the overall site plan for the property. The approved plan includes 194 total housing units; two of the units are detached single-family homes, the rest are in duplexes. Commission member Fred Nugent voted against the measure.

Also, the commission voted 5-0 to approve the subdivision plan for the development's first phase, which will include construction of 32 units, all in duplexes, and a stormwater management pond. This vote enables the developer, Churchey Group II, to apply for building permits. Developer Wes Churchey said he hopes to begin construction in early May.

The previous site plan showed only one detached single-family home and 195 total units, but the final number, 194, is the result of minor changes to the plan requested by the city Planning Department.

The approved site plan includes a 15-foot buffer from the back of the buildings to the property line. Some neighbors had asked for a larger buffer area. Nugent, the lone vote against the plan, said he favored a larger buffer area.

The other commission members, City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, Douglas S. Wright Jr., David C. Lyles and Steven Zaks said they thought a 15-foot buffer was adequate.

The commission members did add a requirement that the trees planted on the buffer area be at least 6-feet tall. Also, the commission members decreased the size of a parking lot by several spaces, to add buffer space, and required that taller trees be planted at the planned stormwater management pond.

The property was the subject of a controversial rezoning and annexation into Hagerstown, drawing scores of protesting neighbors to City Hall last year.

Amid the protests, developers dropped their original development plan prior to a City Council vote on the rezoning and annexation. The new development plan shows 36 fewer housing units than were in the original plan.

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