Town talks of future

Thurmont area residents discuss master plan

Thursday, April 6, 2006

About 30 property owners attended an open house at Thurmont’s senior center last week to provide input about the town’s future.

Frederick County planner Dennis Superczynski explained to attendees — some who live in town limits, some who do not — that the Thurmont Master Plan is ‘‘essentially a guiding document that lays out the broad visions, goals and objectives for the town.

‘‘It helps us to plan for the future, and helps us anticipate what’s coming down the road, and it also gives citizens an opportunity to have input into the future.”

Superczynski said while the master plan is a policy that lays out a town’s goals and vision for the future, a zoning ordinance and the zoning maps that go along with it help put the master plan into effect in ‘‘real life.”

During the open house, Superczynski asked residents to list the major issues facing the town, and then to brainstorm in groups about what they would like Thurmont to be in 25 years, and how they felt that could be accomplished.

Many of the residents who came were concerned about the potential annexation of the 235-acre Myers farm behind the Shamrock Restaurant along U.S. Route 15.

According to Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns, town officials have had discussions with a developer who wants to put between 200 and 300 homes, a large retail store and, potentially, a strip mall on the Myers property. Town officials expect the developer to make a formal annexation proposal in the next few months.

The residents’ list of the major issues facing town included: a lack of vision, conflicts with major retail stores, damage from commercial traffic and other traffic safety concerns, the environmental impact of development, annexation, establishing growth boundaries for the town, establishing a ‘‘greenbelt,” downtown revitalization including preservation and re-development of the town’s center, infrastructure repair, maintenance, and improvement, and attracting tourism.

Many residents said at the March 30 meeting that their ideas for Thurmont’s future differed markedly from survey responses planning officials received from town residents. A tabulation of the survey results showed that 40 percent of the people who responded specifically mentioned wanting a Wal-Mart near the town, and 47 percent wanted large department stores.

Many of the people who attended the open house were outright opposed to building a large box store near Thurmont.

Instead, many said they wanted the town to have more farms and home-based businesses.

‘‘Why not guide development to fit in with our idea of Thurmont?” resident Thomas Cromwell asked. ‘‘People don’t need another Wal-Mart. Instead, we could create open spaces. There’s no place to mix and mingle. We could create a place where people want to get out of their cars and walk around. Why not extend Colorfest activity year-round by creating a tourism center out on Route 15?”

Other residents seemed concerned with the town’s downtown.

‘‘We’re a Main Street Community, but if you go past the Laundromat, there’s really no business there,” Thurmont resident Dave Weddle said.

Because of a zoning law, some businesses on Main Street convert back to residential use if they are closed for more than a year.

Thurmont Economic Development Committee vice-chair John Kinnaird invited everyone to attend the economic development committee meetings and express their concerns and offer their ideas for economic revitalization.

The next open house concerning the town’s master plan will be announced during a future town meeting.