Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

County rejects bypass proposals for New Market

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The Frederick Board of County Commissioners on Monday removed from plans several proposed roads that would bypass the Town of New Market, citing the lack of money.

Commissioner John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) was the most stringent critic of the proposed roads, saying that without money, the roads were nothing more than ‘‘words or lines on a map,” and were not enough to build a bypass.

The plan for a northern bypass from Boyers Mill Road and Summerfield was removed by a 3-2 vote. Thompson said that this would not prevent the construction of a bypass at some point, but there would need to be money first.

‘‘There’s no money, there’s not going to be a bypass,” Thompson said.

But Commissioner Charles Jenkins (R) said there are two possible sources of funding for a bypass. The county has a $10 million project slated for Boyer’s Mill Road that could be used for a bypass, and Winchester Homes has offered to build a bypass.

However, in order for Winchester Homes to build the bypass, the Smith-Cline property would need to be zoned for houses.

Commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D) took issue with that possibility, saying the county should not allow development on the property, and that town residents had spoke out against its development in a referendum in April 2007.

Hagen also criticized the proposed road because he said it extended outside of the county’s growth boundaries through wooded areas and working farms, and it was not a true, limited-access bypass.

Jenkins said still supported a bypass by improving Boyers Mill Road, and though Winchester Homes’ proposal is worth considering.

‘‘The developer’s not going to come in and offer to build something in exchange for nothing,” Jenkins said. ‘‘You’ve got to add capacity somewhere.”

He supported keeping it on the map because he said he was not ready to remove it as an option to alleviate traffic in New Market.

Commissioners David Gray (R), Thompson and Hagen voted to remove it from the plans.

Hagen, Gray and Thompson also voted to not make any changes to the planning map that would allow the development of the Smith-Cline proposed bypass.

An addition to Linganore Road planned from a sharp turn near Edward Mercer Road to Gashouse Pike and improvements from Gashouse Pike to old Annapolis Road were stricken unanimously.

Commissioners are in the process of revising the New Market Region Plan, a blueprint that helps guide growth. The board has focused its revisions on reducing the number of homes expected to be built in the region — set originally at 7,534 — to deal with traffic issues. The county has also examined a traffic study that predicts gridlock even with their housing reductions unless more roads are built.

New Market Mayor Winslow Burhans III, who attended the meeting, said the commissioners were playing to misconceptions about last spring’s referendum on the annexation of the Smith-Cline property. He said it was a closer vote than is widely believed. Out of 235 votes, 148 were against the annexation, but 105 were for it, and none of those voters knew the outcome of last year’s traffic study.

The study conducted by Sean Burnett, an engineering consultant with the Owings Mills-based Wilson T. Ballard Company, showed that within a 20-year period, the road system surrounding New Market would suffer near-total gridlock. ‘‘I can almost assure you that that result would be different today,” Burhans said.

In the face of the Eaglehead buildout, Burhans said the board has been more apt to attempt to solve traffic problems by decreasing development rather than planning road improvements.

‘‘You guys keep removing units to some point where you think you’ll have an acceptable level of traffic on Main Street,” he said. He said the town and county’s leaders needed to take the opportunity to investigate a way to build a bypass, even if it meant allowing development on properties through which a bypass could be constructed.

‘‘Let’s find a true bypass,” Burhans said.