(3/25) Resident Kevin Haney's opposition to the annexation of a 235-acre farm along U.S. 15 for a Wal-Mart or similar business has stirred up interest in zoning issues, and that's a good thing, Frederick County planner Denis Superczynski said Friday.
"So often what we do is so arcane," Mr. Superczynski said.
The annexation issue has mobilized people to take planning issues seriously right when the town is starting to revise its 1998 master plan through a series of public workshops.
The next one will be April 3, at 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., but the location has not been set.
The prospect of having a "box store" set up shop on the Myers farm property behind Shamrock Restaurant is unlikely without zoning changes, more water facilities and a change of heart, Mr. Superczynski said.
Tyler-Donegan Real Estate Services, based in Ijamsville, is working with the property as a mixed-use residential/commercial project.'
"Right now, the zoning doesn't support anything approaching the possible use for it," Mr. Superczynski said. "On top of the zoning, when we talk about zoning, we're talking about a series of codes."
The codes, included in Thurmont's master plan, define land uses.
"It keeps a power plant out of your backyard," he said. "It sets the stage for how the town is going to grow and not grow."
The codes don't allow for the annexation, he said. If the survey Mr. Superczynski administered to 2,300 of Thurmont's residents in November is any indication of the town's opinion about growth, large annexations aren't going to happen.
More than a quarter of the residents, or 658 people, replied to the survey, which covered everything from what stores Thurmont should have to land-use issues. Eighty-five percent of those who responded reported they wanted to preserve Thurmont's small-town atmosphere.
But the survey did have some problems. At a meeting Thursday of the town's planning and zoning commission, residents and the commission's chairman, John Ford, brought up some of those concerns.
Some of the responses were contradictory and did not take into account those who live outside the town's boundaries and would be affected by the decisions.
For example, on a question about new development, 55 percent of the respondents wanted large general retail stores like Target and Kmart. But a majority of residents — 62 percent — opposed extending the growth boundary.
"One emphasis of Main Street is to fill in the downtown and not to have the areas that are there be demolished by neglect," Mr. Superczynski said. "In Maryland, if Smart Growth is going to work, we have to intensify the development internally. That would be the way to do it. To focus on the
downtown, fill it in. And limit the growth on the outskirts."