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Residents voice opposition to Williamsport Ventures plan

March 14, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

David Dorworth's opposition to a proposed 967-unit housing development near Halfway and Williamsport drew loud applause from Washington County residents who packed a courtroom Monday night at a public hearing.

"The motive here is ... clear and simple, and it's all about profit ...," said Dorworth, a resident of Kendle Road. "They're trying to build as many units on that property as they possibly can."

Dorworth was speaking of a proposal by Williamsport Ventures LLC to build the development on approximately 330 acres along Sterling Road.

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The farmland is owned by the Britner and Ebersole families.

Twenty-one people spoke at the hearing held by the County Commissioners and Planning Commission at Washington County Courthouse.

Some people stood against a back wall because there was no room to sit.

Britner and Ebersole family members attended the hearing to support the proposed development and a zoning change needed to move forward with the plan.

Most of the residents who spoke were against the plan, citing concerns about traffic, overcrowded schools and sewage capacity.

"I feel like the developers are luring new residents to this county at the current residents' expense," said resident Ginger Griffith, who lives nearby on Tower Drive.

She also questioned the results of a traffic study on the proposed development.

Resident Mark Berger said he supported Williamsport Ventures and refuted some claims that crime might increase with the proposed development.

"We are not talking about public housing, cheap duplexes ...," Berger said.

The types of housing proposed would bring quality people to the area and increase the tax base, he said.

"Most people don't like change, but look how our county has grown," he said. "As you know, most of us live on a piece of land that used to be a farm."

Austin Gisriel of Downsville, a friend of the Britner family, encouraged the county to vote in favor of the rezoning request.

He called information distributed by residents who opposed the project "propaganda."

He said the development would allow the owners to leave a "thoughtful, well-planned legacy for the community."

The number of units in the proposed development is down from the 1,267 units Williamsport Ventures proposed last year. It withdrew the plan after the Planning Commission voiced concerns about traffic and before the County Commissioners could make a final decision on zoning.

Williamsport Ventures is requesting a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay zoning designation on top of the land's current agriculture designation.

A PUD allows a mix of housing types. In addition to housing units, Williamsport Ventures has proposed a commercial area and land in the development for a public school.

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