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Farm loss called 'dark chapter'

November 29, 2000

Farm loss called 'dark chapter'



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


About 55 opponents of a plan to build 159 housing units on property just east of Williamsport attended Tuesday's Washington County Commissioners meeting to make clear their continued opposition.

Gary Baker, the group's spokesman, handed the commissioners copies of a petition he said was signed by more than 400 residents who oppose the 27.7-acre housing project planned for farmland near Tammany Manor Road.

Construction of the project would be a "dark chapter" in the county's push to preserve its rural heritage, he said.

Earlier this month, about 75 people attended a Washington County Planning Commission meeting to present Planning Commission members with an earlier version of the petition.

The project is planned by former Washington County Commissioner R. Lee Downey, who owns the property that had been part of Hopewell Farms and is agricultural land.

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County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger, who is also on the Planning Commission, said a special workshop meeting on the project will be held in January and opponents will be advised of the time and location.

At this point the county doesn't even have a site plan, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

"We'd like to be involved as early in the process as possible," Baker said.

He invited the commissioners and Downey to a community meeting Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Saint Andrews Church on Donelson Drive in Williamsport.

The land, which is north of Virginia Avenue and along the south side of the Interstate 81 and Interstate 70 intersection, is zoned highway interchange II.

Many residents thought the farmland had agricultural zoning, which would have blocked residential development on the land, Baker said in a four-page written statement that he distributed and read aloud.

"We clearly need continued growth to sustain a prosperous community. However, my experience as a resident in Frederick County during the 1980s taught me that improper planning could result in urban congestion that is inconsistent with rural heritage," he said.

The project includes 27 residential units on 6.3 acres, 60 townhouse units on 8.7 acres and one 72-unit apartment complex on 4.3 acres.

The petitioners oppose any housing development on the property except family residential lots of a size and density comparable to the lots of existing homes in the neighborhood.

The group is concerned about traffic problems that tend to occur with population increases.

Downey has said additional housing is needed for current and future residents, and that he wasn't surprised by the opposition because farmland is involved.

Downey said the traffic study would be completed within 30 days.

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