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Mayor favors new survey on Myer's Farm

Jeremy Hauck

(4/5) Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said Tuesday that he would support a new survey of Thurmont residents regarding the Myers Farm annexation, since developer HKB Myers Land changed its proposal ‘‘dramatically" at a March 22 public meeting.

‘‘When you take 350 homes off the table, I think it changes a lot," Burns said. ‘‘It very well may be that [Thurmont residents] don’t support this, either."

Hudson Land, a subsidiary of HKB Myers Land in Washington, D.C., asked the town in October to annex 210 acres north of Thurmont, along U.S. Route 15. The developer told Thurmont that it wanted to build 350 homes and up to 400,000 square feet of retail space.

Thurmont residents disapproved of the annexation, according to responses to a town survey, by a margin of 2-1.

Hudson Land told town officials at a later public meeting that it had changed its annexation proposal to include nearly 450,000 square feet of commercial space along both sides of Route 15 and 113 acres of farmland, and no new homes.

Burns said Tuesday that he had thought – until the March 22 meeting – that Hudson was going to ask the town to annex the commercial acres, and not the farm.

Burns said he didn’t know if Hudson’s decision to leave the farm in the proposal would be ‘‘acceptable" to town commissioners and residents.

‘‘Annexing the entire property does not make me comfortable," he said. ‘‘It’s much easier to rezone a piece of property than to annex a piece of property."

Heritage areas may cause concern

Denis Superczynski, Frederick County’s lead planner for the region, at the meeting asked Hudson and Thurmont officials to consider the tourism and preservation-based plans that include the area around the Myers Farm.

‘‘I think one of the primary motivators for us – at the local level – to consider our land-use options along the [Route 15] corridor, is to understand that this isn’t being done in a vacuum," Superczynski said. ‘‘I think it makes a good case for very carefully considering any development along the corridor; particularly that part of the corridor that’s visible from U.S. 15."

Hudson said that the commercial development in his company’s proposal ‘‘would serve as [an] ideal terminus" for a future ‘‘industrial parkway" in the town.

Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area and the Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway all integrate the area that the developer has asked the town to annex into their limits. Though none of them bar or have a regulatory effect on development along Route 15, all of the plans were drafted to preserve the area’s scenery, and to ‘‘minimize anomalous intrusions," or ‘‘foster ... crisp town edges."

The Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway, which became a national scenic byway in 2005, runs the entire length of Route 15 through Frederick County, according to Jim Gugel, a principal planner in the county’s comprehensive planning department. Gugel said the highway’s status as a national scenic byway does not impact land-use decisions.

‘‘What may come out of that would be recommendations," Gugel said. Such a recommendation could be, he said, ‘‘putting up trees and other landscaping that would shield a big parking lot from the roadway."

Liz Shatto, director of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, said that the plan, adopted by Maryland, Frederick County and Thurmont, seeks to promote tourism and preservation of scenery and historic sites.

‘‘It’s been accepted into [the county’s and Thurmont’s] comprehensive plans," Shatto said. ‘‘By virtue of being a certified heritage area, [participants] do have access to benefits that are offered through the state heritage areas program," including tax incentives and low-interest loans, she said.

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