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Three annexations on horizon in Thurmont

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(6/8) Mayor Martin Burns announced a third potential annexation proposal forthcoming for Thurmont during a town meeting Tuesday.

Burns said Wednesday he had met with Jan and Kristin Lawyer on Tuesday before the town meeting. The Lawyers showed him conceptual drawings for a 240-home development on 130 acres behind Little League fields at East End Park. Burns illustrated the plan comparing it to a doughnut’s shape.

‘‘On the exterior portion of the doughnut, there are 12,000 square-foot lots, and then the interior portion of the doughnut would be about 8,000 square-foot lots," he said.

The Lawyers had petitioned the town for annexation years ago, Burns said, but pulled their request before a decision was made.

‘‘They did not say they would make a formal annexation proposal [this time]," Burns said. ‘‘They just wanted to know what I thought, but until the sewer system is fixed and tested I don’t think anyone stands a chance of annexing anything."

A formal annexation proposal for another property near Thurmont will soon come before the town board, said Barry Weller of Drees Homes. The initial design concept includes plans for 330 homes.

While Weller could not give a specific date for when the annexation proposal will be submitted, he said Drees will meet with town officials this week or next to discuss the proposal. The developer met with Burns three weeks ago, Burns said.

‘‘We’re trying to put together an assemblage of properties near the Weis Market," Weller said. ‘‘We’re at the very, very beginnings of the project. We talked to the mayor about community needs for the project, and will next talk to commissioners and residents about what they feel is appropriate, and try to create a plan that is in keeping with what the desires of the community are."

Burns said he discussed an all-residential project with Drees, and saw plans for about 130 homes, 130 small townhomes, and 100 larger townhomes. In addition, the plans showed a swimming pool and a large park, as well as a ‘‘good amount" of forest buffering Catoctin Furnace Road, he said. The design also showed some walking paths that would lead to a future Thurmont public library branch, another smaller park on the other side of the development, and some round-abouts, Burns said.

Weller said that while Drees has an initial design to show town officials, that design may change.

‘‘When you assemble the properties, engineers draw up a preliminary plan to show what might work on the property," he said. ‘‘We don’t have an actual proposal together yet."

Weller said Drees would conduct traffic and soil studies before submitting a formal annexation proposal.

‘‘We’ll know more once we talk with the commissioners and residents," Weller said.

Burns said in his estimation, the property on which the annexation is being proposed is a ‘‘ton of wetlands."

‘‘That is the location where Wal-Mart wanted to go eight years ago," Burns said. ‘‘It’s really swampy looking."

Burns said Drees had not told him specifically when it expected to make a formal annexation proposal, but he believes it would come sooner, rather than later.

Hudson Land, the developer that will also make a formal annexation proposal on the 235-acre Myers farm property outside Thurmont, now expects to make its formal annexation proposal in August, Tom Hudson said.

‘‘What I personally believe in my heart, is that they know that there’s not many opportunities to develop, and that they’ll be competing to be the first one out of the gate," Burns said. ‘‘So, that if the town approves any development, whoever is first will have the best chance of success. That’s just my gut, and that is a big if — if the community and the board accepts any annexation."

Hudson said he was still in the process of soliciting names for a design team, which will be made up of planners, residents and town officials, and expected to have a design completed by mid-July. He said he would follow up with an annexation petition shortly thereafter.

‘‘One of the things that will be driven out in the [design team] process will be what will be the right mix for the town," Hudson said. ‘‘What can we come up with that will make a majority of people happy? I know we won’t be able to make everyone happy."

Hudson said his concept for the development includes pedestrian-oriented walkways that will maximize the ‘‘walkability" within the community.

‘‘I want to put things in that people can walk to, instead of having to hop in their car and drive to," Hudson said. ‘‘That’s what I have in my mind."

As an example, Hudson said he might put in a dry cleaner, dentist office or medical office. The exact types of stores and offices have not been determined; Hudson said he wants to hear residents’ desires before final decisions are made.

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