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Residents, Bowman in land use fight

Trailer storage yard and sea container facility draws criticism

Trailer storage yard and sea container facility draws criticism

July 10, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A group of Williamsport residents who last year opposed the Bowman Group's proposed truck stop near town spoke out this week against Bowman's trailer storage yard and sea container facility on adjacent property.

Large storage trailers and rust-colored sea containers - movable, stackable storage units transported by land and sea - now occupy a portion of the 65-acre property at 15935 Spielman Road just south of Williamsport.

The residents said they fear the "unsightly" storage area will spread to more visible, adjacent properties also owned by Donald Bowman, who had proposed a truck stop on about nine acres fronting the storage yard and a motel and restaurant on about five acres he owns across the street.

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"We're fighting expansion," resident Barbara Hovermill said Tuesday. "We'd like to protect the history of the area."

The sea containers, in particular, look ugly, pose potential terrorism and environmental hazards because only a small percentage of the contents are inspected, and offer little economic benefit to a community that is known as a tourist destination, said the Rev. Tom Perry, who spoke on behalf of the citizens' group during Monday night's Town Council meeting.

"This land and this area are very valuable for tourism," resident Toni Shrader said Tuesday. "This is a portal to Washington County. Is this what we want people to see when they visit?"

Williamsport resident James Jewell on Monday warned council members against getting involved in the land use fight. He said sea containers play an important role in transportation around the world, and many of the goods that will fill the containers stored in Williamsport might be produced locally.

Jewell said residents opposed to the storage yard were targeting Bowman.

"Let's leave the B-word out of this," he said.

Shrader said her group isn't "anti-business or anti-Bowman." The group would fight any property owner whose land use threatened the natural beauty and historical integrity of the area, she said.

But Shrader and Hovermill acknowledged that there is little their group can do to stop the use of the 65-acre Lightner farm property - which abuts the C&O Canal National Historical Park - as a storage yard.

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals in December granted the Bowman Group's request for a special exception to establish a maintenance equipment facility with a storage yard and sea container facility on the property, contingent upon the following provisions:

n Bowman must provide adequate screening with plants and shrubs to shield the sea container facility from the public.

n The sea container facility can only operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

n A sign must be erected directing customers to the sea container facility.

n Storm water management issues must be addressed to the Washington County engineering department's satisfaction.

n A historic barn on the Bowman property must be preserved.

Bowman Sales and Equipment Inc. President Todd Bowman on July 1 presented the Washington County Planning Commission with a site plan for the property, but it was tabled until next month due to a conflict over the type of shield trees to be used, county Planning Director Robert Arch said.

County officials have a responsibility to make land use decisions - even involving private property - in the best interests of all citizens, Shrader said.

The National Park Service is spending millions of dollars to improve the Williamsport section of the C&O Canal in hopes of boosting its status as a major tourist attraction, and county officials should make land use decisions that support those federal efforts, Shrader said.

"This is a shining star in Washington County," Shrader said. "Why aren't we trying to protect the C&O Canal like we are protecting the scenic vistas and land around Antietam (National) Battlefield?"

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