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Variance requests concern Thurmont planners

Ed Waters Jr.
Frederick News Post

(5/25) While a proposed townhouse development could benefit the town, Thurmont planning officials have concerns over requests from the developer.

The project, River Run Farms, would create 24 townhouses on South Carroll Street. Officials said the area was zoned R-5 for dense development to promote building within the town, rather than growth around the municipality.

River Run Farms is asking the town to give a variance on road width to part of the street, which would be maintained by the homeowners association. A bridge section of the road would be maintained by the town and meet the width requirements.

Denis Superczynski, principal planner for the Frederick County Community Development Division, said the developer said it would need a variance from the 32-foot street requirement to only 20 feet and no curb or gutter and no street lighting. Superczynski said his impression was that without the variance, the project would not be a viable venture for the developer.

The developer, which had no representative at the town's planning meeting Thursday night, said in the request that future development around the site could pay for the required lighting, road width and curb-gutter placements.

"It gives the town a good way for development within the town, without annexation, but there are still some issues," Superczynski told the planning commission members.

"If they (the developer) can't do it within the town requirements, it may not be a viable project," said commission member Wayne Martin. Noting that he had sold homes as a Realtor in Lake Linganore, Martin pointed to the problems in that community, where variances were given to narrower roads and other construction, only to end up as costly upgrades later on.

"I am pro-growth, but we need to do it right," Martin said. "Some of this scares me."

"We need to do it right, or not at all," said commission member Sabrina Massett.

Commission Chairman Randy Cubbedge said the town might be able to work out the road width, as long as it was sufficient for fire and rescue vehicles to reach the townhouses when built.

"But the lighting, curb and gutter should be in place. There is no concept here for stormwater, and I don't want the water running into the creek," Cubbedge said.

Superczynski said the commission needed an "airtight" decision as it could be setting a precedent for other development if such variances were allowed.

Massett said if the cost of the lighting and other features were added later, it could make existing residents in that section of town "casualties of the development" if a special tax were imposed on them to pay for those upgrades.

Superczynski said he would relay the commissions' comments to the developer.

"The waiver (request for variances) is on the June (28) agenda for the commission. The developer may come in or withdraw the project from discussion at that meeting," Superczynski said.

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