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Residents address potential annexations

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(6/15) Thurmont officials and county planners will hold another public hearing on the town’s master plan at the Thurmont Senior Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

‘‘If you want it to be our master plan, and not a master plan set by [residents] outside of town, please come," Commissioner Glenn Muth said.

Three potential annexations are expected to come up during the meeting.

Tom Hudson of Hudson Land has said he hopes to build around 375 homes and perhaps some businesses, which at one point included a Wal-Mart or other large box store, if the town annexes the 235-acre Myers farm.

Drees Homes is proposing that the town annex land near the Weis Market to build 330 homes on about 108 acres.

And last week, Mayor Martin Burns announced the existence of a third potential annexation request for a 240-home development on 130 acres behind the Little League fields at East End Park.

Residents this week had varying responses to the potential annexations, but most said they were opposed to further residential development in the town.

Some indicated that while they did not favor residential development or the building of a Wal-Mart or other large box store, they knew many people favor having a place to shop closer to home. Others had no opinion, or had not followed the issue.

Wendy Cochran, who has been a Thurmont resident for 19 years, said she did not want to see more residential development in town.

‘‘Those homes they just put up right there [across from the CVS] are so ugly and they block the view of the church and mountains," Cochran said. ‘‘Thurmont is just putting whole subdivisions where they can fit them. Those of us who have lived in Thurmont for so long are just waiting to get out. We moved here because it was a nice, small, quaint little town. And the schools are overcrowded and there’s nothing for the kids to do. They get run out because there’s nothing for them to do in this town. I don’t understand Thurmont’s appeal anymore. Now it’s a place for people to buy cheap houses and commute to D.C."

Greg Miller, who has been a Thurmont resident for more than 25 years, said he could see both sides to the issue.

‘‘We have problems with sewer and water now," Miller said. ‘‘I would just like to make sure that it’s sufficient. We don’t want [the town] to grow too big, but we also could use a Wal-Mart or some other of that type of store so we don’t have to run all the way to Frederick. But that could also put some businesses out of business."

Drees Homes representatives presented two concept plans for the development they will formally propose for annexation during the town meeting on Tuesday.

Joseph Fortino, land acquisition and development manager for Drees Homes, showed plans for around 130 single-family homes, 130 small townhomes, and 100 larger townhomes.

The plans showed a swimming pool and a large park, and large forest buffer to Catoctin Furnace Road. The design also showed some walking paths that would lead to a future Thurmont public library branch, another smaller park on the other side of the development, and some roundabouts.

In what Fortino called ‘‘Plan B," the developer tried to address concerns over providing affordable housing for young people who have grown up in town. This plan offered nine condominium buildings instead of the 27-foot townhomes. All other features remained the same as in the original plan.

Fortino said the company was interested in hearing input from residents, both positive and negative.

‘‘We are willing to come back as many times as we need to," he said.

Fortino said Drees has already begun to assess sewage system problems, has hired a hydrologist to determine water availability and needs, and plans on doing traffic studies in the fall, when school starts again.

Mayor Martin Burns again used his catch phrase, ‘‘bring your checkbook."

He said other developers were also planning to come to town meetings to give presentations.

‘‘We’ve talked about [sewage problems] cash, cash, and more cash, and I’m just trying to make the best deal for my residents," Burns said.

Burns added that if residents asked him not to support annexations into the town, he would do as they asked. However, Burns only votes to break ties. Town commissioners will vote on any formal annexation proposals.

In addition, Burns said that residents should be aware of some of the drawbacks of not approving additional development. He said he had conducted a ‘‘mini study" on how not gaining impact fees from development would affect residents, and found that residents could expect to see increases in their taxes and in their water and sewer fees if development is denied.

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