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Sharpsburg Pike eyed for more housing

March 21, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

A developer has asked Washington County to rezone nearly 180 acres bordering the planned 773-unit Westfields residential development off Sharpsburg Pike.

Hashempour Consulting & Management LLC is asking that zoning for the property, consisting of 178.8 acres, be changed from agriculture to rural village.

A March 1 county staff report indicates a development would be built on the property, but no more details were available Monday.

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The report also states the zoning request is not compatible with the county's growth regulations.

Senior Planner Misty Wagner-Grillo said she did not know what Hashempour had planned for the site.

Typically, a rural village zoning designation would permit more homes than an agriculture district would allow, Wagner-Grillo and Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

The county's zoning regulations allow one home for every five acres in agriculture districts, while rural village districts allow one home for every acre, Wagner-Grillo said.

She said she has not spoken with the developer, which referred all calls and correspondence to its attorney, William C. Wantz of Hagerstown.

Hashempour did not provide the county with a phone number, Wagner-Grillo said.

Wantz declined to comment Monday. A woman who answered Wantz's office phone said Wantz was not authorized to speak to The Herald-Mail on the matter.

When called, a Gaithersburg, Md., phone number listed for Hashempour Consulting & Management on an online business directory stated the number had been changed to a nonpublished number.

According to the county staff report, Hashempour's rezoning request is inconsistent with the county's Comprehensive Plan because it is outside the boundaries of Lappans, which the county has designated as a rural village.

The report states the development of the site would not be considered "infill development" - development on existing parcels - which the Comprehensive Plan recommends.

The plan also does not encourage the use of public facilities and services for "substantial new development," in rural villages, according to the report.

The intention of a rural village is to "preserve the unique historic or rural character of the existing villages by encouraging compatible development within the defined village boundary ... The zone is also designated to prevent large amounts or inappropriately scaled development or uses that would detract from the existing rural or historic character of the village," the report states.

Ten historic properties are within 1/2 mile of the site, according to the report.

The site is in the Fountain Rock Elementary School, Springfield Middle School and Williamsport High School attendance areas. The report states Fountain Rock is over capacity.

A public hearing is scheduled for the request April 10.

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