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Development ordinance density questioned

March 15, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

Good things might come in small packages, but at least one City of Hagerstown official believes 5 acres is a bit too small.

City Comprehensive Planner Stuart W. Bass told members of the City Council Tuesday that a specialty development ordinance the city created to allow higher-density developments should have set aside more than 5 acres as the required minimum.

"I assume that, in the near future, we're going to look at increasing that 5-acre minimum?" Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire asked Bass during council's work session Tuesday.

"Yeah, it's something we've identified," Bass said.

The Revere Development Co. of Gaithersburg, Md., wants to use a Planned Unit Development overlay district in order to build a development of 84 town houses off Burhans Boulevard by the Norfolk Southern Railroad. It would be called Deerfield Knolls.

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The land is about 6.1 acres and is zoned for residential and commercial uses. Bass said Revere meets the technical requirements for the PUD district, and the planning commission voted in January to support the plan.

The ordinance recommends developers seeking to use the district incorporate a variety of uses and density levels, which appears not to be the case with Deerfield Knolls, according to preliminary plans submitted to the city by the developer. Bass said he believes Revere does not have enough room on the property to mix the types and intensity of the residential units.

Without the PUD overlay, the developer would be held to the city's residential and commercial zoning requirements. On the residential part, Revere could build as many as 15 units for every acre of land as part of a cluster development, meaning it sets aside common open space to be used by all of the development's residents.

"I still think that this is unacceptable, considering the size of this parcel," Aleshire said.

A handful of residents spoke at a Feb. 28 hearing on the plans, saying they would prefer higher-density homes to the vacant lot that is there now. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said while the proposal is more intensive than what he might otherwise prefer, he believes the council should take heed of the residents' concerns.

"This has been a piece of property that has been a problem for at least a decade," he said. "It has its real limits as to what can be done with it."

Revere President Bruce Pitts said he will see if he can modify the plan to meet Aleshire's concerns, but he said he was doubtful there is much he can do because the plans already were changed and the density already was reduced from 91 units to 84 to meet concerns raised by the city's planning commission.

"I've made significant revisions and I'm not sure I'll be able to get to that 100 percent," Pitts said.

The council could introduce an ordinance supporting the request at its March 28 meeting.

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