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Rezoning proposal is facing opposition

March 11, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County residents and preservation groups on Monday night spoke against a proposed rezoning request that would make way for a 34-home development in the Sandy Hook area.

The 23.93 acres proposed for the zoning change is owned by Sylvia J. and William D. Martin.

The Martin family has asked that the land along the south side of Keep Tryst Road, east of U.S. 340 and north of Sandy Hook Road, be rezoned from business general to rural residential.

The rural residential zoning classification allows properties to be developed at a density of two single-family dwelling units per acre or two, two-family dwellings per acre, according to county documents.

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Of the approximately 45 people who attended the public hearing, 16 spoke against the proposed change.

None spoke in favor of it.

The public hearing was held by the Washington County Commissioners and the Planning Commission at the Washington County Courthouse.

"This is a special place that deserves special attention," said Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) Conservancy.

Rosa described the area as a scenic gateway to Maryland and said a residential development would diminish the view of the C&O Canal.

"Scenic and historic areas should have fewer, not more, homes," Rosa said.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny Nigh said the county should save such historic areas for future generations to experience.

Other residents said more homes would cause traffic nightmares in an already congested area and overcrowd Pleasant Valley Elementary School.

Some people suggested that a park be built on the land rather than homes, because such a zoning change might encourage more residential developments to pop up.

Jim Laird, who does not live in the Sandy Hook area, said he thought the land should be preserved as a conservation zone.

"Tourists and visitors will see that as their first view of the county," Laird said. "Do we want this to appear as a suburb of Los Angeles, or do we want it to appear as a historic area...?"

William C. Wantz, the lawyer representing the Martin family, said a zoning change on the land would comply with the county's Comprehensive Plan.

He said the rezoning would have positive impacts on the area.

"No one has testified that this would affect property values or place a burden on utilities," Wantz said. "I hardly see how this property lends itself to a domino effect."

The Martin family over the summer requested that the property be rezoned to residential suburban, but it withdrew the request before the County Commissioners could vote on it.

The Planning Commission recommended in August that the commissioners deny the proposed change to a residential suburban district.

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