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Thurmont rejects rezoning request for Stonewall Acres

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

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 doing.

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 said.

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.

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