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Commissioners begin work on master plan

(10/16) The Thurmont Commissioners have started to delve into the master plan recommended to them by the Thurmont Planning Commission.
“As you know, we began the process seemingly decades ago,” County Planner Denis Superczynski told the commissioners at a recent meeting.

He presented an overview of the plan to the commissioners, explaining some of the changes and thought processes behind the recommended changes.

The town’s master plan, although updated every 6-10 years, is a 20-year plan. One element of the plan that seems to interest most people is where the town plans to grow and how much growth is it planning for.

“It is a consensus idea – in 2008 or whenever this is approved – of where the town should grow in the future,” Superczynski explained.

He said the plan recommends maintaining growth at 35 dwelling units a year, which is roughly the annual average of growth the town has seen since 1970.

Superczynski said the planning commission created a four C’s strategy for managing residential growth. The C’s are:

  • Constraint of the rate of growth in subdivisions.
  • Control on rezoning to residential classifications on property.
  • Careful management of the timing of annexations.
  • Consistency with the municipal growth boundary.

In general terms, he explained that a lot of the land in the plan is being set aside for medium density residential growth. The municipal growth boundary is recommended for expansion to the south and southeast of town.

In order of priority for development, the plan recommends property inside of town, land south and southeast and contiguous to the town, along Rocky Ridge Road and west of U.S. 15.

Superczynski also pointed out that the town has water and sewer capacity for 20+ years of growth at the recommended rate of 35 dwelling units a year. The problem is that the sewer infrastructure is not capable of supporting growth in its current condition.

A new zoning classification being recommended in the plan is “mixed use.” This new zoning was developed as a way to integrate commercial businesses into current buildings and to add a residential component to commercial properties.

Planning and Zoning Chairman John Kinnaird pointed at that if the town does expand the town’s growth boundary, it doesn’t mean that the property will ever be annexed. The boundary is a recommendation the commissioners can plan for, but it’s the property owner’s decision whether or not to have the property annexed.

“This is one step in a very, very long journey,” Kinnaird said.

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