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1.100 homes denied

June 14, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT

Concerns about school capacity, roads and compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods thwarted plans for two developments consisting of nearly 1,100 homes near Williamsport.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed by consensus to deny zoning request changes that would have allowed the developments.

Heritage Land Development and Portrait Homes each applied for a Planned Unit Developments (PUD), a floating zone that would be placed over the land's existing agriculture zoning classification.

PUDs typically allow for higher-density projects and mixed-use developments.

The commissioners' official votes denying the requests are expected to occur next Tuesday, but it's possible the requests won't make it that far.

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The developers have until that time to withdraw the applications, Planning Director Michael C. Thompson said by phone Tuesday night.

If they withdraw before then, the developers can make changes to the plans and resubmit them. If they don't withdraw, they'll have to wait a year before they can resubmit, Thompson said.

Heritage Land Development proposed 967 housing units on 328 acres between Sterling and Kendle Roads, adjacent to the east side of Doub Road.

Portrait Homes proposed 131 townhouses on 24.3 acres on the west side of Bower Avenue between Interstate 70 and Tower Drive.

The developments are in the Williamsport Elementary School, Fountain Rock Elementary School, Springfield Middle School and Williamsport High School attendance areas.

Those schools are already experiencing enrollment pressures, and the proposed developments likely would push enrollments past capacity, county officials have said.

While Heritage Land Development offered to provide land for a new elementary school, Commissioner John C. Munson said that wasn't enough. He estimated three new schools would be needed.

"And the developer should build these schools, not just (offer) land," Munson said.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she was concerned about the developments' effect on schools and roads.

She also said she didn't think Heritage Land Development's plan was compatible with surrounding homes.

Bower Avenue, where the Portrait Homes development would be built, has enough problems without the additional town houses, Nipps said. She said the road is narrow and a concern of parents whose children wait for buses there.

"I just feel that Bower Avenue is inadequate for what is currently there," Nipps said.

School Board President W. Edward Forrest said he thought the commissioners made the right decisions on the proposed PUDs.

He said Heritage Land Development's offer of land for an elementary school didn't address capacity issues at the middle and high schools.

"I think the decision was probably the correct one," Forrest said.

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