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Drees annexation request back on the table

(8/1) Drees Homes asked the Thurmont town commissioners to once again consider annexing 113.6 acres south of the town near the Weis Market. The plan for 329 condominiums, townhouses and single-family houses has been tabled since December.

The re-activated plan has been tweaked somewhat to include moderately priced dwelling units and to avoid construction on wet soils. It also incorporates some green concepts in its design.

Stuart Terl, division president with Drees Homes, said to that the most-similar local community to the Thurmont proposal that Drees is building would be Whittier in Frederick. Mayor Martin Burns said he had been there recently and, "It was amazing to see people walking from their homes to the town center."

The Thurmont development would be only a quarter of the size of Whittier and have 121 single-family houses, 112 townhouses (23 will be MPDUs) and 96 condominiums (24 will be MPDUs). The company is seeking 75 units in the first year and 60 units thereafter, which would be balanced between the three different housing types.

"Much below 60 would be a probably be a deal breaker for us," Terl said.

This is because each housing type offered requires a certain level of sales to justify it. However, he said he would look at the feasibility of offering only one or two housing types at a type in order to lower the total number of annual permits Drees would be seeking. He also admitted that the first year request was in conflict with the Maryland Department of the Environment consent agreement with the town that allows only 66 taps a year and that it would need to be resolved.

Terre Rhoderick, with the design team of the project, explained that the project would have no visual impact on Route 15, which has been a complaint about the proposed Myers Farm annexation proposal.

"Maybe in the fall or dead of winter you might see in the second floor of those houses, but you're a half mile away," Rhoderick said.

A major concern among the commissioners appeared to be how stormwater would be handled. Rhoderick said that Drees would build the stormwater management pond to greater than the 10-year-storm standard.

Commissioner Bill Blakeslee expressed some skepticism. "We were told we would have a pond better than ever before and withstand a 100-year storm and it's been a disaster," Blakeslee said.

However, he also noted, that since the pond would outfall into an existing stream, it probably wouldn't cause the problem that the town has had with the stormwater management pond in Pleasant Acres.

Rhoderick said that of the nine intersections Drees was asked to study for traffic impact, only one (Blue Mountain Road/Pryor Road and US 15) shows a level of service less than A. He pointed out that it is caused by the background growth at the intersection and not by any traffic the Drees development would be projected to add.

Drees is proposing $7.4 million in proffers, tap fees and impact fees to the town. Some of that money would have to be used for specific purposes, but though Drees suggested uses for the other monies, it is not earmarked. By doing this, if the commissioners wanted to commit more money to a specific project, they would be free to do so.

The project will now begin the process of workshops and public and hearings with the Thurmont Planning and Zoning Commissioner before it comes back before the town commissioners.

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