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Museum approved at Antietam battlefield

November 06, 2000

Museum approved at Antietam battlefield



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


Despite opposition, the Washington County Planning Commission on Monday night unanimously approved the site plan for the proposed Chaney-Newcomer House Civil War Museum & Museum Shop on Antietam National Battlefield.

The 18422 Shepherdstown Pike property is just east of Sharpsburg and within the legislative boundaries of the battlefield.

Property owner William Chaney, a Civil War enthusiast who lives in Lothian, Md., wants to open a museum and museum shop in the historic home he is restoring to look as it did in September 1862.

The Planning Commission approved the site plan proposal for six parking spaces, the addition of an exterior restroom, brick walkway and small sign advertising the museum and museum shop.

The commission's site plan approval is contingent upon Health Department approval of the private well and septic systems and State Highway Administration approval of the property entrance design, county Chief Planner Steve Goodrich said.

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All other agencies have approved the site plan, he said.

Taking those go-aheads and the property rights of individuals into consideration, "There really, in my opinion, is no reason for the Planning Commission not to approve it," County Commissioner Bert Iseminger said before the vote.

The Planning Commission can't take into account any private easements or restrictions on the property because "undertaking such a task in the course of the planning and zoning process is clearly inappropriate," Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas said in a recent memo.

Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard and renovation architect Eleanor Lakin spoke in favor of the plan.

"We have to find a way to bring life to these buildings in order to maintain them," Howard said.

Iseminger assured site plan opponents that the Planning Commission would look into their claims that part of the property's zoning process was illegally bypassed.

The Sharpsburg Mayor and Town Council and Tom Clemens, president of Save Historic Antietam Foundation, attended the meeting to voice their opposition to not being notified earlier in the process about the proposal and to the commercialization of the historic property.

The opponents fear that commercial development will set a bad precedent and create a traffic problem on Md. 34. They oppose a site plan that includes signs and more than two or three parking spaces.

Chaney said after the meeting that he was "just pleased with the way it went."

He is ready to proceed with the renovation of the historic Newcomer home, which was named for the family who occupied it during the Civil War, "as soon as possible."

Staff Writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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