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County planners, town officials look 20 years ahead, get residents’ input on Thurmont growth

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(6/29) This time, county planners were successful in getting town residents involved in Thurmont’s master plan update process, Frederick County planner Dennis Superczynski said.

The town’s master plan anticipates development in and around the town 20 to 25 years into the future, but will be refined and updated at least a few times during that time, he said. Planners revisit the master plan every six to eight years.

About 75 of the more than 100 people who attended a workshop about the plan’s update on June 21 were town residents, he said.

‘‘I’m excited at least 100 people showed up for a meeting," Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said. ‘‘Most residents who support me, support me because I have a low, controlled-growth platform."

The primary issue during the latest workshop was to determine what Thurmont’s growth limit should be, Superczynski said.

‘‘The question was, ‘Should the town grow physically outward, and if it does what kind of development should that be?’" he said. ‘‘What can we do within the current town limits? What is it that we should build within the town’s parameters now?

‘‘Quite a number of groups essentially followed the current growth line. There weren’t a lot of groups that wanted to see an expansion of the growth line."

Burns said town residents should consider changing the growth boundary.

‘‘Here’s the only thing that’s different than what I’ve said before," he said. ‘‘If they keep the municipal growth boundary where it is, and we become landlocked, eventually our town will die. If there is no room to grow ever, every piece of property that they’re talking about developing right now is [at least partially] outside the municipal growth boundary. If not now, just don’t set the boundary so tight that when our future leaders want to grow 20 years from now, [they won’t be able to.] If people don’t believe it can happen, they need to get more involved and outside the box of Thurmont."

Superczynski said he thought more people came to the recent workshop because county planners had sent postcards to town residents to let them know where and when it was taking place. The last workshop had attracted about 20 people, mostly residents living outside of the town’s municipal limits who were opposed to the potential annexation of the Myers’ farm near their homes. News of two other potential annexations into the town in recent weeks may also have had an impact on residents’ participation in the latest workshop, he said.

Thurmont Commissioner Glenn Muth said he attended the workshop as an observer.

‘‘I purposefully did not want to participate, because that’s up to the citizens and the planning commission to do," he said.

During the latest workshop on the town’s master plan update, residents who attended were broken up into a dozen or more groups, he said.

‘‘Each group had essentially a map of Thurmont, an aerial photograph," Superczynski said. ‘‘The maps had the current town boundary. They also had the growth limit that Thurmont had drawn for itself in the 1998 master plan. The maps also showed the growth limit for the Thurmont community established in the county’s 1995 Thurmont Region Plan.

‘‘So we asked them to draw on the map, and asked them to identify what types of uses should occur in these new expanded areas."

County planners will take the mapping information generated from the workshop and put it into a report.

The Myers’ farm property that will soon be formally proposed for development is not within the town or county’s current growth limits, he said. The Lawyers’ farm, also expected to come before the town’s board soon, is in the town’s growth plan.

‘‘...I think people have been prepared for that annexation for a while," Superczynski said.

The area near the Weis Market, which will also soon be formally proposed for annexation by Drees Homes, is within a small area abutting the town, south of Moser Road and east of the town’s wastewater treatment plant that is not yet in the town’s limits.

‘‘It’s kind of the missing piece of the puzzle," he said.

Generally, Superczynski said, residents’ discussion of the annexations focused on whether new growth should be encouraged within the current growth limits. ‘‘Certainly within the county, maybe or maybe not in the town’s growth limits," he said.

Based on prior planning workshops and survey data, town residents did not seem interested in encouraging much residential growth Superczynski said.

‘‘They want to see a rate of growth that does not destroy the small-town character of Thurmont and at a pace that the town can absorb," he said.

That could become an issue with the latest two potential annexations announced — the Lawyers’ farm, and the one near Weis.

‘‘If there is one nagging issue, it is that there is no one clear truck route to get to U.S. Route 15 without having to pass through local streets," Burns said. ‘‘I’m hoping that if we do annex additional properties to the north, that there is some accommodation made for safe entry onto and exiting off of U.S. 15."

Superczynski pointed out that the county’s regional plan for the area, which will also soon be updated, shows plans for a new interchange just north of the Myers’ farm.

Coming up for the town’s master plan is a pre-planning report that will be issued sometime in July, Superczynski said.

‘‘We’ll issue the pre-planning report, plus ... a summation of all the public input we’ve had," he said.

In addition, Superczynski said he expected county planners to provide a draft of the master plan in September to the Thurmont Planning Commission.

The town’s planning commission will make changes to the draft, and eventually they will vote to send that to the town’s board of commissioners.

The next planning workshop will probably not be until September, and county planners will spend the summer putting a draft together, he said.

‘‘At that time we will allow [residents] to throw darts or dole out hugs," Superczynski joked.

The town board will have its own public hearings and ultimately vote to accept the plan, he said.

‘‘We’ll probably be finishing things up very early in ... 2007."

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