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Town house development considered for vacant land

March 02, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

A vacant, 6.1-acre piece of land near Burhans Boulevard and the Norfolk Southern Railroad could be turned into an 84-unit town house development, but at least one city official is concerned about whether the city should settle for just any development because the land has been vacant for the past decade.

"It isn't like this is the only development to come our way and we have to accept it," Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said.

The Hagerstown City Council held a public hearing Tuesday on a request by Revere Development Co. of Gaithersburg, Md., to use a specialty overlay district to build the homes with heavier density than would otherwise be allowed. The property is bounded by Mitchell Avenue, Burhans Boulevard and the railroad, and carries a mix of residential and commercial zoning. The planning commission previously approved the plan.

"This is an undeveloped nugget of vacant land that's been on the market for 10 years as a commercial site," said Bruce Pitts, president of Revere Development. "It's just an area that's begging to be developed."

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Pitts said he believes the development, which would be called Deerfield Knolls, would benefit both its neighbors and those in search of housing in the city. He expects the units would sell for around $200,000.

Resident Karen Near, who has lived by the property and the adjacent railyard for 42 years, said the area has become a center for undesirable activity. She said she believes the development will help clean up the property.

A memo prepared by city Comprehensive Planner Stuart W. Bass noted the project meets the technical requirements for a planned unit development, though he raised some concerns. He said the overlay district requires developments to incorporate a variety of uses and density levels, though Revere Development's proposal includes only town house units of similar size. He also noted the development would create a 'cluttered streetscape of garage fronts and render the sidewalks almost nonexistent." Even with those issues, Bass endorsed the project because the land has sat vacant.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she supports the project but would like to see a high dividing fence bordering the property and railroad tracks to keep children from playing in the railyard. She suggested something higher than the 6-foot-high fence Revere Development has proposed.

Aleshire said he believes 84 town houses are too many for the 6-acre property. He said the city should not put itself in a position of approving something just because nothing else has been proposed.

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