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'Extraordinary' development raises crime, crowding concerns

September 20, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

According to developer Tim Feaga, a proposed 1,280-unit mixed development in Williamsport has the potential to be "extraordinary, out of the ordinary."

Residents who jammed a public hearing Monday night used other words to describe the property - words like crime, congestion and overcrowding.

The Washington County Planning Commission will make its recommendations to the County Commissioners.

More than 100 people filled Court Room 1 of Washington County Circuit Court to speak out about a development planned for an area along Sterling Road east of Williamsport. A small group sat with the property's current owners, but most speakers told the County Commissioners and Planning Commission they oppose the building plans.

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"I don't think this is any solution to the problems we face. I think this is a nightmare," resident Thomas Perry said during the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

According to County Chief Planner Steve Goodrich, the 328-acre development would include 154 single-family units on 80-foot lots, 240 single-family units on 60-foot lots, 788 town houses and 108 condos.

The area is zoned agricultural, but on the owners' behalf, Feaga has applied for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which would allow more housing units to be built in the same space, Goodrich said.

PUD regulations allow 12 units per acre, Goodrich said. According to Feaga's PUD application, the Williamsport development's density would be less than four units an acre, Goodrich said.

The development would be built along Sterling Road at the intersection of Edward Doub Road and would stretch to Kendle Road.

Residents objected to the application's traffic analysis of the area that suggested the development would have little impact on congestion. Many said the development would overburden the city's infrastructure.

"We're not talking about low density. We're talking about a city - 1,200-and-some houses," Dick Cushwa said.

Feaga, who is representing the owners of the property where the development is proposed, said the PUD would allow flexibility in the type of units that are built and the design of the area. He said the development has the potential to be "something special," and he told the board that plans call for the construction of covered bus stops and the development of park areas.

Feaga said the PUD plan would create flexibility so work-force housing could be built.

According to Goodrich, plans for the area include a possible site for schools. The land is just outside the development area, he said.

The development would bring in many more children than the Williamsport schools could handle, Rodney Turnbough, Washington County Public Schools director of facilities management, said before the meeting.

Kurt Britner, one of the owners of the property, said his family never asked to be included in a growth area, but now, the longtime farmers would like to see the area develop in a positive way. He said the PUD would make that possible.

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