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Dialogue begins on town master plan update

(4/6) It sounds like the beginning of a joke. A developer, a life-long Thurmont resident, a short-time resident and a non-resident sit down at a senior citizen center …

But what these men and about three dozen other people were discussing April 3 was quite serious. The group met at the Thurmont Senior Center for the first workshop for the town master plan update.

"We want to know in generational terms what the town is to become, but we adjust our course every 5 to 6 years," said county planner Denis Superczynski.

The current Thurmont master plan was created in 1998 and the town is in the process of updating it before the county begins looking at the regional plan for areas outside the town limits. The master plan outlines the town's goals and objectives for the next 20 years, which are then implemented through zoning.

Superczynski said the plan "helps up plan for our future. It helps us plan for what's coming down the road."

The workshop attendees listed a number of issues they felt the master plan should address. Most centered on a vision for the town and growth and its impacts. The possible annexation of 235 acres near the Shamrock Restaurant cast a large shadow over the meeting. It was mentioned numerous times to support different points.

The full group then broke into four smaller work groups. The work groups attempted to define what the future Thurmont would become and how various issues could be addressed. One of the groups included a developer, a life-long Thurmont resident, a short-time resident and a non-resident. They struggled to reach consensus because each person had a different viewpoint.

Thomas Cromwell of Thurmont said, "Thurmont could be the preeminent town in this region as a tourist destination."

Ken Didel of Creagerstown disagreed. "The only thing I know is people stay at the hotels here so they can go to Gettysburg," he said.

He wanted Thurmont to be more a farming community and he strongly opposed the cookie-cutter developments.

"You blindfold somebody and drop them off in the middle of one of the developments in Thurmont," Didel said. "They're not going to know where they are."

Life-long resident Sterling Bollinger supported the town's growth. "My vision is to continue to grow like it has been over the last 60 years."

Thurmont Planning Commission member John Kinnaird said that while many of the groups supported the town's small-town atmosphere, far fewer of them actually chose to work to help maintain that atmosphere.

Some also commented on the fact that the use of county lands or other municipal plans could affect Thurmont.

"We may be put in a position at some point in the future where our area is changed against our will," said Mike Mathis, who lives outside the municipal boundary.

Supercyznski said the results from the workshop would be summarized and taken back to the planning and zoning commission.

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