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A look at the draft Thurmont Region Plan

(10/4) The Thurmont Region in Frederick County is currently in the middle of what is expected to be its fastest growth period for the next 25 years. It’s growing at 2 percent a year.

According to the draft region plan that the Frederick County Planning Commission could vote on as early Oct. 24 after the public hearing at Mount St. Mary’s University, the region is growing about 2 percent a year from 2000 to 2010. However, this is the peak growth decade between 1970 and 2030. By 2020-2030, the region will be growing at a 1 percent a year.

The Thurmont Region Plan was last updated in 1995. It essentially covers the northern handle of Frederick County and includes Thurmont and Emmitsburg. The total area it encompasses is 77,833 acres, which is actually smaller than the region in 1995. This is because a portion of the 1995 region below Kellys Store Road in the Catoctin Furnace area is now in the Frederick Region Plan.

The Catoctin Furnace area, however, was considered in some of the analysis pertaining to transportation and land use issues in the Thurmont Region Plan Update to avoid splintering of key discussions and resulting solutions affecting the Catoctin Furnace area and US 15 corridor,” the draft plan notes.

The Thurmont Region has increased 5,872 residents or about 40 percent over the last 36 years. With that growth in population has come a shift from residing outside of town to residing in either Emmitsburg or Thurmont.

“Since 1970, approximately 90% of the region’s population growth has occurred within these two municipal growth centers,” the plan reads.

The region is expected to grow to 25,553 in 2030 or a 31 percent increase. The question will be where all these new residents will live.

“Within the two community growth areas, the current residential subdivision development pipeline is severely limited. Considering the regional average of over 100 residential permits per year since 1995, the number of available recorded lots barely supports three years of residential development. Furthermore, with few residential lots being approved in the municipalities in recent years, the supply of potential residential sites is being depleted without new lots being made available,” the plan notes.

Economic development in the region is also facing new pressures.

“Although the City of Frederick continues to be a retail magnet for the Thurmont Region, newly emerging commercial centers in Taneytown, MD, Gettysburg, PA and Waynesboro, PA are beginning to offer alternative shopping destinations for north County residents,” according to the draft region plan.

Farming is also seeing some changes. The region now has 70 farms totaling 8,571 acres in some form of agricultural preservation.

Traffic will also continue to be a problem in the region, but not necessarily from region residents.

“Continuing residential development as well as the potential for substantially more such activity in neighboring jurisdictions north of the Mason-Dixon Line present a key challenge to both county and municipal plans in the Thurmont Region. Over 12,000 residential units were proposed in 2005 and 2006 in Adams County alone. Much of this growth potential is set to occur in Townships and Boroughs along the US 15 corridor and will likely feed already-developing traffic problems in Frederick County,” according to the plan.

Compared to the 1995 plan, the community growth boundary for Thurmont is shrinking while the boundary is increasing for Emmitsburg.

Copies of the draft plan are available from the Frederick County Planning Division.

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