Concerns include traffic, water

July 07, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Allowing dense residential development on a scenic southern Washington County property would contradict the county's comprehensive land use plan and pave the way for environmental and other problems, say opponents of the Martin family's rezoning request.

In addition to eroding the area's pristine character, opponents said, the scope of development allowed under residential suburban zoning would compound existing traffic problems, overburden the sewer system and cause potential school overcrowding.

"We are not against development. The question is whether this area is appropriate for this type of development. Our opinion is that it is not," area resident Walter Ehrhardt said.


The county's Comprehensive Plan encourages preservation of agricultural land and conservation of open space, water supply sources, mountains, woodlands and other natural resources in the rural-agricultural area and areas such as Sandy Hook designated as "rural villages."

The Martin property would be considered part of Sandy Hook if rezoned residential suburban, according to the rezoning case file.

The plan states that growth and development should be channeled toward designated growth areas and encourages small residential and commercial development in rural villages where "protection of the natural environment and availability of adequate public services can be ensured."

Water and sewer

Sandy Hook's water and sewage treatment plant, to which the new development would be hooked, has been plagued by community complaints of a persistent stench since it opened in 1993.

Filtration problems at the plant have forced the county to truck sewage to other plants for processing, Ehrhardt said.

County officials recently approved a contract to provide upgrades to the plant, County Commissioner Bert Iseminger said.

County water and sewer department and engineering department directors signed off on the proposed rezoning, according to information in the rezoning case file.

Water lines are directly adjacent to the property at the intersection of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook roads, and sewer lines are located just south of the site, according to a memo to county Senior Planner Timothy Lung from Water and Sewer Department Deputy Director Ernest J. Bishop Jr.

"All issues under our jurisdiction can be adequately addressed through the normal subdivision process," county Chief Engineer Terry McGee wrote in a similar memo.

Traffic concerns

Traffic backups already are commonplace on the U.S. 340 stretch from Washington County to Jefferson County, W.Va., Jim Downing of Knoxville said.

A report by the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization lists that section of U.S. 340 as at a "failing level of service," Lung said.

No county transportation improvement projects are planned for the area, he said.

Rezoning opponents say the area's elementary school, Pleasant Valley, can't handle a dramatic increase of students. The school was designed to serve an area zoned conservation, which limits development to one house per three acres, Downing said.

Pleasant Valley Elementary operated under capacity by 57 students as of December 2001, according to information in the proposed rezoning case file.

Boonsboro High School and Boonsboro Middle School - to which students in far southern Washington County are bused - also had room for more students as of last December.

Capacity projections for the schools were not available, Lung said.

Members of the county Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the County Commissioners after reviewing the proposed rezoning case at an Aug. 5 meeting.

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