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Cluster developments approved

Danielle Ryan

(9/26) Thurmont voted to approve an amendment to the zoning ordinance that will allow residential clustering on September 12.

The town has been discussing the idea of cluster developments since last year, when David Lingg, of Mechanicstown LLC brought the proposal to the Committee in hopes of a potential amendment. Since that time, three public hearings were held for this ordinance in April, July and September, and the ordinance was finally voted upon in September.

Clustering allows for more open space to be consolidated or assembled together so it can operate in an ecological systems approach. This allows, theoretically, natural resources to be consolidated. Lots in the development would be smaller, under 30,000 square feet, but there would be no increase in the number of houses planned for a development. This square footage is smaller than most single family homes in Thurmont, but it would allow for more open area.

As discussed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Commissioners, there are various benefits from utilizing clustering. Cluster developments take less road area, less pipes and less drainage facilities to service a cluster of houses than houses spread out over a distance. Those cost savings will be realized over years, stated Chief Administrative Officer, Jim Humerick. The Planning and Zoning Commission considers the use of clustering as a technique for designing new residential developments and believes it would allow for more efficient and cost-effective provisions of municipal services and infrastructure, especially as an alternative to large lot subdivisions, and for the preservation of open space and protection of natural areas.

Mayor Kinnaird voted against the ordinance because he was apprehensive of future increases in density. A previous proposal included a line that stated that two or more adjacent parcels could be treated as a single tract of land; this raised some concern with Kinnaird. However, under the approved ordinance, unless the property owner goes through the legal process to combine all parcels into one tract of land, homes must be clustered on each individual parcel and not as a whole. Kinnaird doesn’t see a problem with this as long as the proper legal parameters were followed through in order to combine parcels.

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