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Housing slump hits Thurmont
Recorded residential lots hits 20-year low

(5/1) The weak housing market nationwide is also affecting Thurmont. In 2007, 23 dwelling units were built, the lowest number in the past 20 years. Additionally, only five residential lots were recorded (a rough indicator of future growth), which tied 2006 for the lowest number on record.

Thurmont Planning and Zoning Chairman John Kinnaird said that the commission looked at keeping growth in the town to no more than 35 houses a year, which was incorporated into the town’s draft version of the master plan.

“It’s less than that now,” Kinnaird said. “Now it’s actually declining with each year.”
The draft master plan recognizes that there has been a slowing of growth in the town. “The growth rate experienced in the 1990s, the result of a significant peak in housing construction during 1992 and 1993, did not continue into the 2000s and indeed slowed to a rate more consistent with that of the 1970s and 1980s. Through the early 2000s the average annual growth rate was 1.8 percent,” the plan states.

If the number of new homes built continues to fall, as indicated by the number of new lots recorded, then the 1.8-percent growth rate will fall as well.

Kinnaird said that if the town is going to grow at 35 houses a year, it is going to need more building lots.

“We’re going to be asked to look at annexations and Stonewall Acres is a godsend to us right now if the zoning changes,” Kinnaird said. Stonewall Acres is a property in town that is seeking proper zoning to begin infill development within town.

Those who support little growth in the town may be happy with the low numbers, but that growth has impacted the current budget and will impact future budgets.

“It means we’ll have less to work with and have,” said Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Bill Blakeslee.

The town collects impact fees that are designed to pay for a new home or business’s impact on roads, parks, sewers and water. In addition, impact fees are paid to the county for schools and libraries.

Thurmont’s town budget the past few years has factored in impact fees for 25 new homes, about half of what the average growth rate has been. This has given the town an extra $191,500 to use on capital projects, such as sewer repairs and road improvements. The impact fee income accounts for 13.4 percent of those capital project budgets.

However, with only five houses recorded, impact fees are down.

“I think we’ll be OK, but it’s going to be a lean, tight year and the budget will reflect that,” said Mayor Martin Burns.

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