NEW MARKET - Town leaders introduced two annexation proposals Wednesday night that could expand the town by more than 397 acres.
The owners of a 134-acre plot northeast of town want to annex into the town's new economic development flex zoning designation. The zoning classification, which became law Oct. 3, allows newly annexed areas to be used for a wider variety of uses than the county currently allows. Development on the land, which is known as the Delaplaine property, could include commercial, office, technology, retail, service and other businesses, according to the law. Additionally, the owners of a 262-acre plot northwest of town want to annex into a medium-density residential zone.
Together, the two plots of land would almost double the size of New Market and allow the creation of a northern route across town by extending Mussetter Road to Md. 75, Mayor Winslow F. Burhans III said.
Burhans said the annexations will increase economic development, ease traffic congestion and add enough residents to build a new elementary school. He said he's been going door to door to speak with residents about the annexation and answer any questions they might have.
"I've met with as many residents as I could possibly get to in the last month," Burhans said after Wednesday's meeting.
For several months, the mayor has argued that New Market needs to create a more diverse economy, particularly on county land adjacent to the town. He cites businesses such as the Food Lion and CVS on Md. 144, which are in the county, when arguing that development just outside the town is stifling New Market's economy.
"We're a town that's rapidly becoming a small town surrounded by a larger county town," he said. "That's a threat because we don't get any economic benefit from that."
The annexation agreements were signed by the landowners this week, and the introduction of the resolutions was added to the council agenda less than five hours before the meeting. No one who attended the meeting spoke against the introduction of the resolutions.
Town attorney William Wantz said the annexation agreements cannot be finalized until a public hearing is held. The council did not decide on a date for the public hearing Wednesday.
The council did debate whether to have more workshops about the proposed development, and Burhans said he opposed too many meetings about the issue.
The 262-acre plot under consideration, which is known as the Smith Cline property, was set to be annexed into the town in 2007, but that annexation was voted down by town residents in a referendum led by Friends of Frederick County.
Burhans said the town had several workshops before that proposal and the meetings devolved into a "circuslike" atmosphere.
In 2011, Friends of Frederick County, a smart-growth advocacy group, sued the town over its expansion plans. In late September, Wantz asked a Frederick County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit. A written decision is expected in the coming weeks, Burhans said.
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