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Board hears concerns over Williamsport development

January 27, 2001

Board hears concerns over Williamsport development



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer


WILLIAMSPORT - Traffic concerns were discussed Saturday morning when members of the Washington County Planning Commission and its staff, accompanied by area residents, checked out a 27-acre site being considered for a housing complex.

R. Lee Downey, who has proposed building a mix of 169 single-family residences, townhouses, apartments and duplexes off Virginia Avenue near the intersection of Interstate 81 and Interstate 70, also was on hand.

Standing at Donelson Drive and Virginia Avenue, which is U.S. 11, resident Harry Meyers talked about the traffic backups that often occur there even now.

"It's highly congested at times," Meyers said. "It's a big bottleneck at times."

He compared trying to get across the road at high-traffic times to "playing Russian roulette."

Downey has had a traffic study done and said he will turn it over to county officials and his consultant soon. Planners said they will study all the traffic issues carefully as they consider the project.

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Downey noted there is more than one access route to the project, which should ease some of the congestion.

Gary Baker, a resident and a leader of the opposition to the project, said the housing project would add more traffic to an established neighborhood with an increasing number of children.

"We don't want to see anything that creates a race track mentality in the neighborhood," he said.

Other concerns were raised, including how storm water runoff would be handled, and whether roads would have to be widened and repaved for the development. Planners said all those issues will be considered.

As the group toured the neighborhood and proposed development site, it passed numerous yard signs expressing opposition to the project.

"Keep Our Neighborhood Safe. Protect Neighborhood Character," some signs read.

"I don't think we'd have any objection ... if a development came in and didn't change the character of the neighborhood that's been here for 50 years," Baker said. "We feel we need to do something to preserve what people have worked hard to build."

Downey, a former Washington County commissioner, said the project legally could have as many as 300 housing units on the 27 acres. He said he is working hard to address concerns.

"It's a real benefit for people moving into the area where housing is needed," he said. "There is a strong need for young people getting started."

Planning Commission Chairman Paula Lampton called the site visit a "preliminary consultation" and said more discussions will be held before any decisions are made.

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