Proposed annexations threaten Mount Airy. Attention...

LETTERS

February 10, 2002

Proposed annexations threaten Mount Airy.

Attention citizens! The Mount Airy Mayor and Town Council are at it again! In this time of crisis in our community, we face severe overcrowding in our schools, water restrictions, worsening traffic and a declining quality of life. Thus, I was stunned to learn that the Mayor and Town Council are now considering two annexation petitions on the Carroll County side of town.

One of these annexation petitions is for a 202-unit senior housing complex at the north end of Main Street at Candice Drive. This project includes a mix of mid-rise condominiums and villa-type homes. The developer has publicly informed the Town Planning Commission that if they do not approve this request for annexation, he will build a shopping center there.

The second annexation petition is for a 263-acre project on farmland east of Route 27 south of the blinking light at North Main Street. No one knows how many homes could be built on this property, but do the math. If it is annexed into the town, there could be 500, 1,000 or more homes, depending on the design. There could be enough children in such a subdivision to fill its own elementary school. Will there be enough water for the long term for this property if developed? Can a two-lane Route 27 handle the traffic? Note that the nationally recognized standard is that each single-family home generates an average of 10 vehicle trips per day, so a development with 500 homes will add 5,000 trips per day to the roads, while 1,000 homes will add 10,000 trips per day.

Due to previous actions taken by the Mayor and Town Council, the best scenario for our 9- and 10-year-old children, as proposed by the Board of Education, is to send them to fifth grade this August in portables at Mount Airy Middle School. This option was proposed because there are no seats for them at Mount Airy Elementary. Another option, far worse, was to bus our Mount Airy children to empty seats in Taneytown (one hour from Mount Airy) or Westminster; these are the closest schools with enough empty seats to accommodate the children of Mount Airy.

If the Mayor and Town Council are banking on the proposed new elementary school for Mount Airy, the Board of Education says it remains years away, and it is not yet a sure thing as the state has not given planning approval.

Furthermore, is anyone thinking about future capacity needs at the middle school or high school level as the children progress through the system? If the proposed new elementary school is built, it will accommodate the children from the development now in the pipeline, but there will not be enough excess capacity to handle additional large developments as proposed.

Even if this annexation petition involves a land donation for schools, as Councilman Johnson alluded to in the newspaper, it is still a bad deal. Using land currently owned by the county to build the new school will expedite the process; using land that must go through annexation will slow the process by more than one year according to a Board of Education official. This is one year that our children and community cannot afford.

Regarding water, I would encourage all citizens as well as the Mayor and Town Council to review the county water and sewer master plan amendments, located on the county web site. This plan contains some interesting information regarding Mount Airy. For instance, in the inventory of water problem areas on page 55, it notes that "Dorseytown" in Mount Airy has a problem with low well yields. Dorseytown is where one of the proposed annexations is located; the other proposed annexation is across Route 27 from Dorseytown. One other interesting item, on page 25 of this plan, states that "the proposed Gillis Falls Reservoir will be needed to meet the town's ultimate water demand." Town and county officials agree that it appears unlikely that the Gillis Falls Reservoir will be built. In fact, this project was previously withdrawn due to huge environmental issues. How can the Mayor and Town Council continue to OK massive building when they know that the town's ultimate water source has not moved forward in decades, and probably never will?

Do this Mayor and Town Council care about their legacy? Do they want to leave a Mount Airy resembling Laurel, Gaithersburg, or Northern Virginia, or do they want Mount Airy to remain a small town with character, a special place? Is quality of life important to the Mayor and Town Council? Do they want to take the time to grow the town smart, or will they rush development through the process, regardless of the current state of our schools, water, and roads? I urge the Mayor and Town Council to quickly take any annexation petitions off the table until all these issues are resolved. If they cared to listen to their constituents, this is what they would hear.

Michele Johnson

Mount Airy

The writer is co-founder of Mount Airy Citizens for Tomorrow.

Richard Dixon served Carroll County well

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