(3/30) Scores of people attended the Thurmont planning and zoning committee meeting March 23 to hear the results of Thurmont’s master plan survey.
It was the first of many discussions the town will hold in the next several months about the town’s future. Many who came live just outside Thurmont town limits and are concerned about the potential annexation of the 235-acre Myers farm behind the Shamrock Restaurant along U.S. Route 15.
Town planning staff attempted to stave off discussion of the topic by limiting questions from the audience to the survey.
Frederick County planner Denis Superczynski gave an overview the survey, and discussed what the master plan update will mean for the town.
‘‘Master planning is a very important part of local government," Superczynski said. ‘‘It’s very important that we hear what people have to say. The master plan is essentially a guiding document that lays out the broad visions, goals, and objectives for the town."
The master plan projects 25 years into the future regarding town growth and is updated every six to 10 years. The last time Thurmont’s was updated was in 1998, Superczynski said.
Of the 2,372 surveys sent to town residents, 658 were returned. Superczynski said that was a higher response than the county’s planning department gets to most surveys.
‘‘We have a perfect storm of planning events coming to the north county in the next few months," he said.
88 percent of Thurmont residents said they wanted more shopping 47 percent want large department stores 40 percent mentioned Wal-Mart
In addition to the town’s update of its master plan, Frederick County officials will start the Thurmont Region Plan update in the next six months.
‘‘The key issue is that of the physical expansion of a municipality," he said. ‘‘This is your opportunity to let town officials and planning officials know how you feel about growth outside the area."
While town planning and zoning commission members said they would not discuss the potential Myers Farm annexation, the topic was difficult to avoid since many of the survey questions directly addressed how town residents felt about future residential and commercial development.
According to Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns, town officials have had discussions with a developer who wants to put between 200 and 300 homes, a large retail store and, potentially, a strip mall on the Myers Farm property. Town officials expect the developer to make a formal annexation proposal in
the next few months.
North County resident Christine Macabee pointed out that the survey seemed to show a contradiction in that people were interested in keeping the town small, but were also interested in getting a large store, such as a Wal-Mart.
‘‘Low-impact development... is the higher standard we should hold developers to," she said. ‘‘We must consider the impact on the watershed."
When county residents asked if they could also take the survey, town planning commission member John Kinnaird said the survey was intended to reflect the views of town residents only. ‘‘We would not have time to conduct another survey, but would encourage you to come to our workshops, and we
will certainly take your comments under consideration," he said.
Superczynski told county residents that if the town agreed to the annexation request, county commissioners could get a referendum for people outside of the town’s municipal limits.
Many of the concerned residents gathered outside to discuss their fears about the annexation after the planning commission concluded its discussion.
County resident Jeff Whitehaus said his family relocated to the area outside Thurmont from a rural village in England, and were looking for that same atmosphere when they bought their house.
‘‘We feel pretty strongly about this," he said. ‘‘Some people are relocating. Three different houses went up for sale, and it all seemed to be around when these talks started."
During a town meeting on Tuesday, Burns and Commissioner Ron Terkpo expressed resentment about some letters regarding the potential annexation they have received, and pointed out that the developer has not yet made a formal annexation proposal. ‘‘We need to gather the facts first," Terkpo said.
‘‘There is actually not a whole lot of information in front of us."
Burns pointed out that he had made every effort to get information out to people, and was now being accused by some of backing the development.
At this point, he said, he is neither for nor against the proposal.
Next town planning workshop: 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Thurmont Senior Center