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Beazer plans 250 homes for Lawyer Farm

(12/29)  Beazer Homes presented its annexation petition to the Town of Thurmont in a recent joint meeting between the town commissioners and members of the planning and zoning commission.

George Rathlev, executive vice president with Beazer Homes in Columbia, Md., said his company would like Thurmont to annex about 131 acres east of town, commonly known as the Lawyer Farm, into town.

"It is a property surrounded on three sides by existing development," Rathlev said.

He is also seeking R-2 zoning on the property so that around 250 single-family houses can be built on lots that are 8,000 and 12,000 square feet in size. The average price is expected to be in the mid-$400,000 range. This amounts to less than two houses per acre. Beazer Homes would like to build 50 houses a year.

"It is not a particularly dense design," Rathlev said. "It has a fair amount of open space."

The project has about 20 acres of open space planned with eight acres of that being forests, ponds and streams.

Fran Zeller with Harris, Smariga and Associates said the project would be less dense than the surrounding development.

"It does represent a transition to the east end of town to open space," he added.

To avoid run-off problems that have plagued other developments, at least four stormwater management ponds are planned.

"In fact, this property could remove some of the flow that goes through Ironmaster Court," Zeller said.

Commissioner Bill Blakeslee cautioned the developers not to be overconfident in their designs. "We've heard things have been engineered for the 100-year storm and we've had problems the next year," Blakeslee said.

Mayor Martin Burns encouraged the developer to oversize the ponds. "I don't have any faith or control in the county formulas for the size of the pond."

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Randy Cubbedge had concerns about traffic flow through the development.

"You've kind of locked yourselves into one way in and one way out," he said. "You're going to be adding an impact to a currently tight situation."

One sticking point came when Beazer Homes asked, in their application, to be exempt from the town's adequate public facilities ordinance.

"If the annexation is accepted, given what we're proposing to build, I'd ask that we be allowed to finish it," Rathlev said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner John Kinnaird said, "That would kill the deal for me."

It was noted that Beazer Homes had not proffered anything for annexation. Burns said he definitely wants to know what Beazer is willing to give to accomplish annexation.

A final decision on the annexation is not expected until sometime early next year.

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