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Details emerging on Thurmont Commons

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

Annexing the Myers Farm into Thurmont could be worth at least $7 million to Thurmont, but the town commissioners need to decide whether the problems from the development of 350 homes and more than 300,000 square feet of commercial space are worth the cost.

As the Thurmont Commissioners begin sorting through the details associated with the three proposed annexations, more details are emerging. The developers of the Myers Farm, which will be called Thurmont Commons, spoke before a joint meeting of the town commissioners and planning commission on Nov. 28.

Developer Tom Hudson with Hudson Land, LLC, said four things attracted him to the property: 1) It's easy access to Route 15; 2) That it was sufficiently away from the core of Thurmont so that it wouldn't overwhelm the downtown core; 3) The development would create minimal stress on town infrastructure; and 4) It was close to natural surroundings and parks.

Site engineer Sean Davis said, "It's a wonderful piece of property. It's a beautiful piece of property in its current natural state."

Homes and commercial space included

The conceptual development at this time is expected to include 350 homes (122 townhouses and 228 single-family homes) and 300,000 to 400,000 square feet of retail/office space (bordering Route 15). The average townhouse price is projected to be around $250,000 and the single-family home price would average around $395,000, though 44 of the homes would be priced significantly lower as moderately-priced dwelling units.

The townhouses will be around the core square of the development, with single-family homes to the west and commercial sites to the east. A community center/community park is also planned on the west side. The development will be designed to reduce rainwater runoff, according to Hudson.

Adequate water supply a concern

Thurmont Commons would also have its own sources of water and wastewater treatment plant. The treatment plant would be designed to the state's new enhanced-nutrient removal standards.

A major concern about the development has been where the water would come from. Hudson says a water study shows that property under control of Hudson Land can generate 135,000 gallons a day, which would support 350 homes and 320,000 square feet of commercial space.

"We can support a significant portion of dwelling units and retail with what we have under contract," Hudson said.

Millions of dollars in impact fees and incentives

Hudson estimates that the development will generate about $4.4 million in various town impact fees and the developer is offering another $2.6 million in various incentives. In addition, a fiscal impact study commissioned by the developer showed a net positive impact on the community of $84,000 a year.

The incentives include direct payments to the town of $5,000 per lot for the first 150 lots, $6,000 per lot for the second 150 lots and $7,000 per lot for the remaining lots. Other incentives upon annexation include: $45,000 more to the Thurmont Lions Club for the trolley trail rehabilitation ($5,000 has already been given), $50,000 to reimburse the town any fees associated with the annexation and $50,000 to help with engineering of the industrial parkway north of town.

Goal is 35 permits each year

Hudson is looking to get permits for 35 homes a year upon annexation, though construction is not expected to commence until 2012.

Mayor Martin Burns said, "Thirty-five is decent. It's a lot better than what I've heard before."

This means that the permits not used up to 2012 can be banked for use after 2012. The full build out of the homes would take place over 7-10 years once the construction begins. Commercial development could begin upon annexation.

Roads around the development still remain a concern. Hudson met with the State Highway Administration last year, but no answers for how to deal with traffic and highway access are yet evident. It is likely an interchange will be needed.

CAPPA objects

Kevin Haney, speaking for the Catoctin Area Planning and Preservation Association, said his organization had studied all three proposed annexations before the town. Though CAPPA does not support any of them, "This is the least desirable one in our opinion," Haney said.

In CAPPA's view, the annexation would dramatically increase the population in town, violate Smart Growth policies, strain infrastructure, lower the water table and destroy scenic views.

Burns said that while he understood CAPPA's concern, he warned not only CAPPA but any other opponent to annexation not to use Thurmont's support of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground or designation as a scenic byway as a "growth-management sword."

If it does become an issue, Burns said, "I will do everything in my power to reject those things and undo what the town has done for them."

This is the first in a series of meetings on the Thurmont Commons annexation and a final decision is not expected until this coming February.

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