The Thurmont Board of Commissioners on Tuesday rejected a
request to rezone the 25-acre Stonewall Acres property, preventing 68 homes
from being built on the land.
The vote was 3-1 with Commissioner Ron Terpko casting the lone vote in favor
of the proposal by landowner Andrew Mackintosh. The property remains zoned for
six homes, even though the town’s master plan earmarks the area for a higher
level of development.
Around 20 residents who live in homes affected by flooding from the recently
developed Pleasant Acres property, which is adjacent Stonewall Acres, came to
the meeting to protest the rezoning.
Mayor Martin Burns, who only votes to break ties, said he agreed with the
board’s decision only because Mackintosh had come before the board before it
could finish updating the town’s master plan, which it is in the process of
The timing of the request is the problem, he said, but of all the
development being proposed near town, Mackintosh’s makes the most sense. Burns
said he thought that Mackintosh was asking to develop in an appropriate area in
town, that he was asking to develop an appropriate number of homes (25 per
year), and that he appreciated Mackintosh’s offer to help resolve some of the
drainage problems in Pleasant Acres.
‘‘I don’t necessarily agree with certain comments made by our county
colleagues that every developer out there is out to rape and pillage [our
community]," Burns said. ‘‘You can blame the builders and developers all you
want, but the county specs stink. There is a proper place for developments in
municipalities. When you have a piece of land that’s in town, in my opinion
that’s the place [we’re] supposed to grow based on Smart Growth. A previous
board approved Pleasant Acres much to my whole-hearted objection."
Residents who spoke against the rezoning said the problems caused by
stormwater runoff in Pleasant Acres made them nervous about other development.
Clay in the area Mackintosh was requesting to rezone makes land inappropriate
for development because it does not absorb rain as easily as other soil, they
Resident Joe Eyler, prior to the vote against the rezoning, said one of his
neighbor’s had bought a horse for his children. He told the story to illustrate
why the area was poor for development, although he said it was sad that
development could not take place there.
‘‘It got stuck in the mud, and broke its leg," he said, amid laughter from
the board and residents. ‘‘What do you do? Bury the horse."
David Lingg, a landscape architect hired by Mackintosh to survey the
property, disagreed that the only thing to do with a horse with a broken leg is
bury it. ‘‘Any engineer will tell you, you can fix anything. It just takes
money," he said.
Resident Richard Ellison pointed out that the town does not have a sewer
storm drain system, and suggested town officials work with developers to
construct such a system before allowing more development to take place.
Burns asked all residents who opposed the rezoning to sign a sheet and agree
to stand by the board’s decision to raise taxes next year, if needed, because
they were opposed to allowing the town to generate revenue through impact fees
and growing the tax base.
No one signed such a sheet.