Board nixes farm re­zone

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Rotenberg

The West Nor­ri­ton Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Feb. 11 voted not to re­zone the 56acre for­mer Markley Farms Swim & Ten­nis Club for sin­gle-fam­ily homes in a 3-2 vote.

Com­mis­sion­ers Ja­son Don­ahue, Stephen Tol­bert Jr. and board Pres­i­dent Ralph Panzullo voted against the re­zon­ing or­di­nance. Com­mis­sion­ers David McKen­zie and Brian Kennedy voted for the re­zon­ing.

The board unan­i­mously adopted an or­di­nance, chang­ing sev­eral rules for the R-2 res­i­den­tial zone be­fore the re­zon­ing pro­posal failed to pass. The zon­ing text amend­ment re­quired that the per­cent­age of open space is more than 40 per­cent and res­i­den­tial lots are a min­i­mum of 10,000 square feet.

Panzullo said that while he cam­paigned in the neigh­bor­hood around Markley Farms last year, “ev­ery­one was against the re­zon­ing in that neigh­bor­hood.”

Don­ahue said he voted against the re­zon­ing pro­posal be­cause he wants to pre­serve open space in the town­ship.

“I prom­ise that I will do ev­ery­thing I can to pre­serve open space. We need to fight for open space,” Dono­hue said.

“It is all about open space. It is very im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity that we pre­serve open space.”

Kennedy said he voted for the re­zon­ing be­cause “I don’t see it hav­ing a big im­pact on open space. It is not like it is go­ing to be overly de­vel­oped. There will be open space there.”

Tol­bert said the change from 8,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet was “a good change.”

“If we are go­ing to dis­cuss de­vel­op­ment we should pre­serve as much open space as pos­si­ble,” Tol­bert said. “Dur­ing the cam­paign I spoke to 800 vot­ers in that com­mu­nity. It was a cam­paign pledge to op­pose the re­zon­ing. We made the prom­ise based on the be­lief that we don’t have that much open space left.”

At­tor­ney Ge­orge Ozorowski, rep­re­sent­ing the Markley Farms property own­ers, said be­fore the votes were taken that the property own­ers had planned to “mar­ket the property and put it up for sale” to a prospec­tive de­vel­oper.

The West Nor­ri­ton Plan­ning Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended the zon­ing change to R-2 in Septem­ber 2013.

At the re­quest of town­ship of­fi­cials, the par­cel own­ers pre­pared a yield study in 2013 that de­ter­mined 78 sin­gle­fam­ily homes could be built on 22.6 acres with 26.4 acres left for com­mon open space and five acres for roads. The open space is lo­cated in the cen­ter of the par­cel sur­round­ing the creek and pond area.

The yield plan showed two pro­posed drive­way en­trances off both Oak­land Drive and Chest­nut Av­enue to serve the two clus­ters of homes on the plan.

A Sept. 30, 2013, re­view let­ter from the Mont­gomery County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended the zon­ing change along with “pos­si­ble amend­ments to the clus­ter de­vel­op­ment re­quire­ments — changes to di­men- sional stan­dards, mod­i­fi­ca­tions to use reg­u­la­tions and the ad­di­tion of de­sign stan­dards.”

The let­ter from MCPC de­sign plan­ner Kevin Chavous said amend­ments should in­clude “an in­crease in the min­i­mum open space re­quire­ments to 50 per­cent or 60 per­cent. At present, the min­i­mum open space is set at 25 per­cent of the tract area.”

Land plan­ner Ken Amey, rep­re­sent­ing the land own­ers, said, “We think we have pro­posed some­thing that is less in­tense than the ex­ist­ing R-2 pro­vi­sions. The R-2 clus­ter would be amended so that the min­i­mum lot size would be in­creased from 8,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.”

Amey said the property own­ers were “sug­gest­ing in­creas­ing open space to 40 per­cent and in­creas­ing the lot size to 10,000 square feet. The county had rec­om­mended a den­sity of 2.5 units per acre, which would be 140 units.”

In March 2012, the board of com­mis­sion­ers re­fused to sched­ule a zon­ing hear­ing for the Free­dom Val­ley YMCA, which had pre­sented a plan to build a $19 mil­lion, fullser­vice YMCA fa­cil­ity at the swim club. A ma­jor­ity of West Nor­ri­ton res­i­dents at two pub­lic meet­ings on the pro­posal had ob­jected to the recre­ational fa­cil­ity, the an­tic­i­pated in­crease in traf­fic and the dis­tur­bance of the res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood.

The YMCA had an agree­ment of sale to pur­chase the 56-acre swim club for $3 mil­lion. The re­quested zon­ing change would have al­lowed the YMCA to present the site plans for ap­proval.

The YMCA pro­posal in­cluded a new, 85,000-square­foot build­ing with three in­door pools, a gym­na­sium, an in­door track, a fit­ness room, sev­eral locker rooms, child­care rooms and three out­door pools.

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