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Residents come to Smithsburg Town Hall loaded with questions about proposed land-use regulations

August 29, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Jill Baker, a Planner with Washington County, answers questions about proposed Smithsburg area growth from the people gathered Thursday night at Smithsburg Town Hall.
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG, Md. — About 100 people showed up at Smithsburg Town Hall Thursday night to ask questions similar to those raised in three previous meetings about how proposed county land-use regulations would affect them as property owners.

Land-use changes are being proposed for areas around Smithsburg, Boonsboro, Clear Spring and Hancock, because county officials anticipate those towns will see growth in the future.

County planner Jill Baker — who has led the four informational meetings in the towns to explain the proposed law changes — said previously that the proposed rezonings would affect areas differently. Some property owners will not see any changes, while other areas would see changes in housing densities, she said.

Generally, the proposed laws are intended to channel growth into the targeted areas, Baker has said.

Residents speaking at Thursday night’s meeting — which had the largest turnout of all the sessions — asked why certain areas are being rezoned, how the county plans to conduct followup meetings, how public input will work and whether public utilities will stand up to development pressure.

In response to questions from one resident about the capacity of Smithsburg’s sewer plant, Baker said there are plans to double the plant’s capacity.

But Baker said the planned work to the plant has been pushed back because of other priorities. The improvements are now slated for 2018, and there is money budgeted for it, Baker said.

Matt Harsh, who has a farm along Fruit Tree Drive, told Baker he has concerns about a zone near him that is proposed to be changed from agriculture to a residential transition zone.

Harsh said it is commonly viewed that Md. 64 would be the natural boundary for such a zoning change, but under the rezoning, the boundary would extend past Md. 64.

Extending the residential zone further beyond Md. 64 would alter the character of the area and be a “game changer,” Harsh said.

Baker said the boundary was proposed so it would match the town’s comprehensive plan.

“That’s a good comment,” Baker told Harsh.

 Jarrett Rottmund traveled from Boonsboro to express concerns about flooding problems around his house on Mountain Laurel Road.

Rottmund said ever since a few more houses were built in his neighborhood, flooding as become more severe, so much so that he literally put a canoe in some high water near his house.

He said a zone in his neighborhood is proposed to go from agriculture to residential transition, raising concerns about what more houses will do to flooding due to increased surface areas like driveways.

“I can’t imagine if 10 (houses) are added up there. I would like having riverfront property but not that way,” Rottmund told Baker.

“You have a valid concern there,” Baker said.

Joe Lane of Smithsburg said schools are good in the town, but he fears they will become overcrowded with the growth plan.

“Clearly, this is about making this place develop,” said Lane, whose remarks drew some applause from residents.

Baker said comments from all four town meetings will be summarized, then there will be workshop meetings with county planning officials who will go through the summaries.

Planning officials might make changes to the rezoning maps based on the public comments, she said.

The county is accepting public comment on the proposed rezoning until Sept. 13. Written comments can be mailed to the Washington County Department of Planning and Zoning at 80 W. Baltimore St., Hagerstown, Md., 21740.

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