Downsville Pike rezoning faces opposition

June 03, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

About 20 local residents are petitioning against rezoning 10 acres on Downsville Pike from residential multifamily to highway interchange zoning.

The land is next to Town Oak Village and the former Moose lodge.

The Washington County Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss and possibly act on the rezoning request during its Monday meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room, County Administration Building.

The vacant land is on the southeast side of Downsville Pike near the intersection with Halfway Boulevard, adjacent to the north side of Interstate 70.

The request is being made by 632 Joint Venture, a Maryland general partnership. Highway interchange zoning allows commercial and industrial development but not residential development.


The same rezoning request was made in March 1998. At that time the County Commissioners voted down the request 4-0 at the urging of 30 residents.

Attorney William Wantz, representing the company seeking the rezoning, noted that the county rezoned the adjacent former Moose lodge property from agricultural to highway interchange 1 in 1997.

Joint Venture also owns the former Moose lodge property. A rezoning would ease the ability of the company to undertake projects involving both properties, Stephen Goodrich, the county's chief planner, said in a written report.

Wantz said the rezoning is appropriate for the same reason as the previous Moose lodge rezoning - because the character of the neighborhood has changed substantially. One major change was the opening of ramps leading to and from Interstate 70.

Clyde Bartles, president of the Town Oak Village Home Owners Association, supports the rezoning.

Joint Venture gained the association's support after meeting with them, showing them a sample layout and agreeing to some conditions, including that there would be a visual barrier between the residential development and the Moose lodge property.

Some residents of the nearby Oak Ridge development oppose the rezoning. At a March 20 public hearing the Planning Commission received a petition with the signatures of 20 rezoning opponents, 19 of them Oak Ridge residents.

They say the neighborhood's character hasn't changed.

Among the petition signers was Robert D. Hull, president of Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association Inc. of Washington County, Md. The group, which has 78 family members, represents residents in unincorporated areas of the county, he said.

One reason he signed the petition was because of concern about an apparent county inconsistency, he said.

Before rezoning some other county properties to highway interchange the county held several public hearings and information meetings, Hull said.

"That should be considered necessary prior to any rezonings in this area," the petition said.

The earlier hearings were part of a comprehensive rezoning process involving 17 intersections. The county does not have to go through the same process for individual rezoning requests, County Planning Director Robert Arch said.

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