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Many speak out against Mount Aetna Road development

September 24, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

A public hearing on developer Manny Shaool's rezoning request for his proposed 595-housing development off Mount Aetna Road drew a full house to a Washington County Courthouse court room Monday, with many of the more than 100 people in attendance indicating opposition to the proposal.

The proposed development east of Hagerstown comes at "the wrong place and the wrong time," speaker Nicholas Orfan said.

If approved, it would be built near other planned housing projects at a time when traffic in the area is already congested, he told the joint hearing of the Washington County Planning Commission and the Washington County Commissioners.

"You are the only people who can hold up a yield sign," he said.

Earlier this year, Shaool withdrew a plan for a 990-unit housing complex at the site near the Black Rock Golf Course after the Planning Commission in May recommended the County Commissioners reject the proposal, citing density and traffic concerns.


Shaool is now proposing 265 single-family homes, 50 two-family units, 100 townhouses and 180 condominium units on 220 acres at the site across from Black Rock Golf Course east of Hagerstown, according to planning documents.

During the public hearing about 15 residents spoke against the project while four spoke in favor of it.

"I wish these people know what they are talking about," Shaool said in response to the speakers' comments. He later said he invited some of the speakers to a private meeting so he could explain the proposal but those speaking in opposition did not come.

When the two governmental bodies held a joint hearing on the original request in March, 17 people spoke against it.

With both proposals, Shaool requested a Planned Urban Development, or PUD, zoning designation, which would enable him to build more units per acre than county regulations normally allow.

Shaool wants the PUD because it would allow a variety of housing types, said Bill Weikert of Fox and Associates, who spoke on behalf of Shaool.

The property is in the county's Urban Growth Area, a government-identified area in which development is encouraged.

On both occasions, residents voiced concerns the development would overcrowd local schools and add to traffic problems on local roads.

Weikert said the project would be built over several years, so overcrowding might not be a problem.

"Redistricting would also be a solution to the problem if it should occur," he said.

While there will be traffic problems in the area with or without the development, if the project is built Shaool would pay some of the costs of fixing the problems, Weikert said.

Seven project opponents, each addressing a specific topic, spoke as a group, saying they represented several hundred people. After each finished, many in the crowd applauded.

The seven were former County Commissioner James Wade, Del. Chris Shank and Allen Swope, co-chairman of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County Inc., Pete Low, J. Michael Nye, Kurt Cushwa and Orfan.

Everyone recognizes growth will occur but what they are asking for is planned growth, Wade said.

"We cannot allow rampant growth like this to occur without the infrastructure in place. That is simply not fair to the people of Washington County, and I would respectfully urge your rejection of this latest proposal," Shank said.

In an Aug. 7 letter to the Planning Commission, Funkstown Mayor Robert Kline and Planning Commission Chairman Douglas Stone said they oppose the development unless a proposed Southern Boulevard, also known as the Funkstown Bypass, is built. Further development near Funkstown would "destroy the quality of life people in Funkstown enjoy," they wrote.

Written comments on the proposal will be taken for 10 days. Comments may be mailed to the Planning Commission, 80 W. Baltimore St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

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