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Airport manager opposed to proposed development

September 09, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A preliminary proposal for 128 single-family homes off Paradise Church Road has sparked debate from Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz, who said in a letter to the Washington County Planning Department that she opposes the development.

The homes would be built on 81.33 acres on the west side of Paradise Church Road and would be part of the Paradise Heights development, according to planning documents.

Motz stated in an Aug. 28 letter to county Associate Planner Jill Baker that the development would be within two miles of the airport, putting the safety of the residents at risk if a plane crashed.

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"Any aircraft accident downwind or on the base leg of any of our runways has the potential to end up in a residential area," Motz wrote.

She also said noise from the planes might cause homeowners to complain to the county.

"If the airport continues to grow, noise could cost the county money in the future for insulation, land acquisition and other unknowns," Motz wrote.

She stated that while new planes are quieter, older planes might cause noise problems.

Planning Commission member Bert Iseminger, who is also a County Commissioner, said Sunday the Planning Commission doesn't encourage residential development around the airport, but that the county's current comprehensive plan doesn't do much to prevent it.

"The way the comprehensive plan is structured now, there's really little the Planning Commission can do to prevent residential development," Iseminger said.

He said the county has to wait until rezoning in the recently adopted comprehensive plan takes affect to restrict residential development near the airport.

He said the updated comprehensive plan changes some of the zoning near the airport that discourages such development, and that the changes should start taking place within a year.

"Until we change the zoning out there ... what they're doing is allowed," Iseminger said.

Planning Commission member George Anikis said Sunday that the new comprehensive plan increases the "zone of influence" around the airport by limiting the number of homes in the zone.

He said homes will be limited to one per 50 acres. The zone serves as a safety measure and restricts the path of planes landing at and taking off from the airport.

For now, Iseminger said the county has been purchasing property around the airport to control development and that new homeowners are told about possible noise from planes.

He said, however, that the Paradise Heights development isn't in the direct flight path to or from the airport.

Anikis said the commission is trying to attract commercial development around the airport and to "greatly reduce" residential areas.

He said he thinks the noise created by airplanes is more of a problem than the safety concern.

"Even though they say (the newer planes) are quieter, they're still noisy," Anikis said.

The Washington County Planning Commission will discuss the proposal at a meeting today at 7 p.m. at the Administrative Annex building at 80 W. Baltimore St.

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