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Thurmont to attach annexation ballot to Dec. 29 water bill

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(12/28) Residents in the Town of Thurmont will have their say this month on whether or not the town grows, but they won’t have to go to the polls to vote.

Instead, the town is attaching a ballot to the Dec. 29 water bill.

‘‘I’m asking everyone to vote; yes, no, indifferent," said Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns, adding that an ‘‘indifferent" vote means ‘‘yes" to growth. ‘‘[An indifferent vote] means they can take it or leave it."

If a majority of the votes favor growth, Burns and the commissioners of Thurmont would seriously consider proposals from three developers for annexation and growth.

The developer at the top of the pile, according to Burns, has said it will pour enough money into the town’s coffers to pay for two sewer system projects. ‘‘It’s a fact," he said.

The two projects together would cost Thurmont more than $6 million.

The developer, Hudson Land, is a subsidiary of HKB Myers Land of Washington, D.C., and wants the town to annex 210 acres of land north of Thurmont and along the Catoctin Mountain Highway. The plan calls for 350 homes and up to 400,000 square feet in retail space.

Hudson Land would also build its own water treatment plant and sewer system, independent of Thurmont’s. ‘‘It has no impact on our sewer system," Burns said.

Hudson Land in November told the Board of Commissioners and the planning commission that the town stands to benefit from the development to the tune of $7 million in impact fees and incentives. Frederick County would receive more than $4 million.

Tom Hudson, a Hudson Land principal, said the Thurmont Commons project would include its own water systems because of a state requirement, not as a further incentive to the town. ‘‘That’s something you would normally bring," he said. ‘‘It’s not cheap."

One of Thurmont’s two sewer system projects, completed this year, cost the town $1.6 million and boosted the sewer system’s inflow and infiltration capacity by 350,000 gallons.

The town is installing flow meters next spring to test the effectiveness of the project.

The second project, slated for the near future, is going to update 13,500 feet of 80-year-old sewer pipes, Burns said. The project’s estimated cost is $4.6 million, and ‘‘current residents will bear the full burden of this project if there’s no new development," he said. ‘‘It’s not looking too good. It could come in higher than that."

That means residents will pay at least another $3 for every 1,000 gallons of water they use, which would likely add up to another $180 per year per household, according to town officials.

Water treatment plant operator Randy Eyler said that, while ‘‘the plant runs great," the amount of water that runs through it swells to fill its capacity when two or more inches of rain fall during wet seasons. ‘‘It puts a bother to you."

The other two developers will have to wait under the town’s sewers are repaired, Burns said. ‘‘I don’t believe any other proposal stands a chance until it’s fixed," he said.

Drees Homes of Cincinnati wants the town to annex 108 acres of land south of Thurmont and along Catoctin Furnace Road. The plan calls for 330 homes, a park and a swimming pool.

Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA wants the town to annex the 131-acre tract known as the Lawyer property between Moser and Jimtown roads. Its plan calls for 240 homes and 20 acres of open space.

The Catoctin Area Planning and Preservation Association is opposed to Hudson Land’s development because it ‘‘falls in the category of what they call a lollipop addition to the town," said steering committee member Thomas Cromwell.

Cromwell said the development would be too big and would disrupt the way of life for people who have ‘‘moved from suburbia to the country."

‘‘If a line is not drawn through a project like this, it means that people don’t care about where they live," he said.

Hudson Land has postponed a second meeting with the planning commission until after the new year because it is doing a preliminary traffic impact study, Hudson said.

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