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Developers might try to build on re-enactment site

Toll Brothers Inc. has presented a concept plan for development of property on Rench Road

Toll Brothers Inc. has presented a concept plan for development of property on Rench Road

June 16, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

WASHINGTON COUNTY

shappell@herald-mail.com

Nearly three years ago, Frank Artz said he would be willing to host a re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam again in a few years provided the land on his family's Rench Road farm wasn't being used for another purpose.

That other purpose might become housing as a Pennsylvania-based developer has met with the planners and county officials about building there.

On April 7, Toll Brothers Inc. presented its concept plan for development of the Artz property, on Rench Road west of Sharpsburg Pike, during a preliminary consultation, according to planning documents.

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Documents state the company proposes building 550 units on 218 acres of the property, which was used for the last two Battle of Antietam re-enactments, in 1997 and 2002.

A representative from Toll Brothers, which dubs itself "America's Luxury Home Builder" on its Web site, did not return a phone call Wednesday for information on any type of agreement with the land owner.

On Tuesday, Frank Artz said any sale of the farm property has not become official and that he has had discussions with a development company, which he would not name.

Artz said that, besides the re-enactments, the farm also housed horses used while the Civil War film "Gods and Generals" was being filmed in the county.

Artz would not directly answer several questions in reference to a land deal between him and a developer on Tuesday, and declined to give any comment on the matter Wednesday.

"You hear a lot of things," Artz said Tuesday.

Planning Director Michael Thompson said if the current development plan is approved and used, it would be at a lower density than recommended by the state for such a property, which is inside the county's designated Urban Growth Area.

Still, Thompson said the project has several hurdles to clear before it can be approved.

Among those listed in planning documents are a public water and sewer infrastructure that cannot handle that development without changes and the "village series" lot dimensions that do not meet any of the county's current zoning districts.

Thompson said the most significant problem for the plan is school capacity. He said the districts the development would be in - the Emma K. Doub Elementary, E. Russell Hicks Middle and South Hagerstown High school districts - already exceed capacity.

Thompson said that if proposed changes to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance regarding schools are adopted, the planning board likely will not give future final approval to projects being proposed in districts with capacity problems until overcrowding is addressed.

"There's nowhere to put the kids," Thompson said. "(Developers) can spend a lot at this point in time, but there's no guarantee there'll be capacity (at the time of final plat approval)."

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