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Planning Commission hears proposal for Williamsport homes

August 02, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

WASHINGTON COUNTY

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Planning Commission took up its first discussion Monday on a proposed 1,267-home development near Williamsport, posing questions over when a school would be built, how forest conservation requirements would be met and what type of traffic measures would be taken.

The 328-acre project is expected to be discussed at a public hearing next month before a joint meeting of the Washington County Commissioners and the county Planning Commission, which together will consider a Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning designation request proposed by Williamsport Ventures LLC.

A PUD is a zoning designation that allows for greater housing density.

The development is proposed for an area between Kendle and Sterling roads near Edward Doub Road, but it is expected to take years to fill out. The land currently is zoned agricultural.

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"This is a long-term, long-off project," said County Commissioner James F. Kercheval, an ex-officio member of the planning commission.

Monday night's comments will be used to fine-tune the project before next month's hearing, County Chief Planner Stephen Goodrich said.

One concern by commission members was the timing of the project in relation to the needs for school capacity.

The project, which will be limited to 50 units per year because of sewer capacity, could yield more than 800 elementary, middle and high school students when the project is complete, according to school system estimates, Goodrich told the Planning Commission.

Goodrich said that Williamsport Ventures has provided 50 acres that could be used for a school on the plan put before the commission Monday, but Kercheval said he wanted to make sure the project considered timing issues.

He said there could be a problem if the school is placed too far from where the home development would begin, which could make it more difficult to get utilities to a possible school.

Commission members also questioned a proposed "linear park" along a proposed road that would bisect the home development aimed at meeting forestry requirements.

M. Jeremy Rutter, a development consultant for the project, said the parkland, while narrow, is designed to help better connect the development. It would have park benches and sidewalks that would lead to a community center planned for the development.

Goodrich said that the project could still change substantially, particularly in relation to a traffic study which has yet to be completed. Project representatives said they intend to have traffic-calming measures along the main roadway.

Goodrich also said that the county Historic District Commission has recommended that 19th-century farm buildings on the land be preserved.

Commission member Bernard Moser said the project looked "sort of crunched together," and "amenities would be one of my concerns."

Under the current proposal, there would be 393 single-family homes, 766 town homes, 108 condominiums and a community center.

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