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Md. developer wants to build 450 units off Haven Road

April 19, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - An Annapolis developer is planning to build 450 residences off Haven Road if the City of Hagerstown agrees to annex just more than 50 acres near the city's northern border.

Though the plan to bring more housing upsets many who live in the area, several residents at a neighborhood meeting Monday said they want the city to annex the property and fear higher-density building without the agreement.

Gene Lynch, president of Smart Growth Investments LLC, said before about 50 people at a meeting at Haven Lutheran Church that his company intends to build 450 units off Haven Road. He said the development will include town houses, single-family and multi-family homes on about 53 acres of land if the city approves an annexation request for the property.

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The property, currently a wooded area owned by Ken Jordan, is behind Rest Haven Cemetery and adjacent to Mack Trucks' powertrain plant, city officials said.

Lynch said the current design calls for single-family housing around the outside of the property to create a buffer from existing houses and a community center with a library, a "party room" and a swimming pool.

Lynch said much of the plan is still being worked on, and he did not know specifics on how much improvement, if any, will be required on nearby roads.

Amid suggestions from a few members of the audience that the company build fewer units, Lynch stood firm saying Jordan has the right to build about 1,000 units.

"He's made a choice to lower it to 450. That's a pretty big reduction," Lynch said. "Going from 1,000 or 800 to 450 is a huge loss of value."

Several city officials attended the meeting, including Mayor William M. Breichner and council members Penny May Nigh, Lewis Metzner and Kristin B. Aleshire, all of whom are seeking re-election next month.

Early in the meeting, Metzner addressed the crowd saying that development would likely proceed, at perhaps double the density, if the city rejects the annexation request.

"You need to keep in mind, if you convince us not to annex, the development will go forth on county property that is already currently zoned for 800 units," Metzner said. " ... Saying 'no' will not stop the project."

Among the most outspoken opponents of the current design was Kensington Drive resident Christi Hatcher. Hatcher said she believes that 450 units is far too many for that area, even if zoning would allow more.

Hatcher said, if the developer continues to "stonewall" over the need for it to be 450 units, the landowner should consider using another developer. Hatcher said traffic conditions at Pennsylvania Avenue's intersections with Haven Road and Crestwood Drive are "awful already."

"I waited seven minutes to get onto Pennsylvania Avenue today. I wasn't kidding," she said.

Still, Hatcher said she believes the city should approve the annexation request. She said the city should attempt to establish an understanding with Smart Growth Investments on issues such as building at a lower density before granting the approval.

Bobbie Elmlinger, who has lived on Fairview Road for about 23 years, said she is in favor of the annexation and "would probably sell my house" if that does not happen.

"The city is willing to work with us, the city is listening to us, the city is including us," Elmlinger said. "I don't think we'd get that with the county."

Charles Brown, owner of Rest Haven, said he attended the meeting because he is concerned about additional traffic on Haven Road and how it will affect people attending funerals at the cemetery. Brown said he is a reluctant supporter of an annexation plan.

"I'd like to see that property not developed, but I don't think it's a choice," Brown said. "I would like the city to annex because I'd rather have 400 (residences) than 1,110."

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