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Challenges ahead for rezoning

November 14, 2000

Challenges ahead for rezoning



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


A contested Hagerstown annexation and rezoning of almost 37 acres along Mount Aetna Road have been upheld in Washington County Circuit Court, but legal challenges to the proposed development for that property remain.

The city, the development company and a group of residents are now set to argue over the Planning Commission's approval of development plans for the property, which is surrounded by the Brightwood Acres, Londontowne and Fairway Meadows subdivisions.

Judge Frederick C. Wright III ruled Tuesday that the city acted properly in zoning the property R-1, residential.

Wright said the R-1 zoning did not permit substantially different uses for the property than those that are outlined in the Washington County master plan, and therefore the R-1 zoning is acceptable.

Last month, Wright ruled the annexation of the property was valid.

Both the annexation and the rezoning were challenged in a suit filed collectively by 63 neighbors of the annexed property.

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The neighbors, represented by Hagerstown attorney William C. Wantz, also appealed the city Planning Commission approval of the site plan and subdivision plats.

Neighbors opposing the development plan have said they fear the development will lead to increased traffic and hurt the value of nearby properties.

The challenges to the Planning Commission actions were put on hold until the court ruled on the annexation and zoning, because a ruling in the plaintiffs favor on either issue would have made the commission's actions moot.

Jim Stone, attorney for and a partner in the development company Churchey Group II, said Wright's ruling was a "major step in vindicating our position all along that this is an appropriate and desirable way to develop this property."

The development plan for the property shows 194 units on the site. Two of the units would be single-family homes and the rest duplexes.

In May, the city Planning Commission approved the overall development plan and the first phase of development, which is the construction of 32 units, all duplexes.

Stone said the issue in the remaining court challenge is "whether the proposed development fits the technicalities of R-1." He said a court hearing on the remaining case will probably be held in February or March.

Wantz said the remaining issue is whether the proposed development provides a buffer for the surrounding properties. He said his clients want the project redesigned to provide a larger buffer. He wouldn't say what size buffer would be acceptable.

The development plans show a 15-foot space between the rear of the garages and the property line.

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