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Developer's Response to Town Critique of Pre-Concept Plan

On February 13th, 2024, a joint-workshop was held between the Town Council, Planning Commission, Town staff, and Pleasants Development to discuss the pre-concept sketch plan of the Beck Property (named “Mt. Airy Crossing” by Pleasants).

With over 100 questions and criticisms voiced by Town officials, Pleasants decided they would like to answer the majority of the questions in writing at a later predetermined date. The town received this written response, as well as a “revised” sketch plan that attempted to incorporate SOME of the issues that were discussed.

With such a large proportion of the units being touted as “Senior housing,” a few officials questioned whether these units would always stay age-restricted. This would prevent the ability of families to move into units later on and further strain our APFO- specifically schools. Pleasants responded to say that the land will have covenants recorded in deed and applied to all age restricted units (They specify 55+ active seniors). This will carry on indefinitely and no one under the age of 18 will be allowed to reside in these homes. The revised sketch plan did reduce the number of senior living units by completely removing the proposed apartment complex. This leaves 166 senior housing units, with an increase in single family homes/townhomes instead to total 184. The total number of units in the entire revised plan is now 350. (The addition of single family units may put further strain on the schools)

On the subject of units, the revised plan did finally use the correct persons per unit of 2.75 as per Town Code. Pleasants responded that those numbers were higher than need be for seniors, but town code is town code. Based on this analysis and the potential population increase, the open space requirement MINIMUM of 3 acres per 100 persons had to be addressed. The revised plan now has 35.9% of the total acreage as open space, although the majority of it is either wooded, hilly, or small pockets of green with their comment that the decisions of what can go there will be determined later after approval. Although they have “gifted” the town three acres to do with it what they will, they will not help to construct it, even for ball fields. Pleasants states, “Construction of recreational fields is the responsibility of the Town.” With potentially 963 new residents to add to the town, the open spaces available to them is still insufficient, even if it is the “minimum required.” (The minimum amount is to be able to apply for an open space waiver. Since the Town is in such a large 80+ acres open space deficit already, no one can develop and add to the population without a waiver to bypass the guidelines).

Water was also a hot topic of discussion, since the town has just enough water for the current residents and not enough to supplement this project. The developer had stated that they will not require any water from the town; they will supply the water. Pleasants also stated that the 1 well (5 total, 4 didn't qualify) on the property is going through a 30 day pump test and they expect 120,000 gallons per day (gpd) yield once results are received. The revised plan requires approximately 85,000-100,000 gpd, (according to Pleasants’ comments). Typically, MDE allows approximately 75% of water gpd, or about 90,000 gpd. This would not leave a buffer in case of fluctuations in well yields or environmental concerns, such as drought. Ironically, Mt. Airy JUST removed water restrictions due to a 2023 drought. (Important to note this is not the first nor the last time there are drought concerns in Mt. Airy). In addition, the town staff brought up the fact that remediation of PFAS may be necessary since the town already has an issue with wells being contaminated. This will be in addition to upkeep of the well. Pleasants responded by stating that they “will provide the treatment facility including PFAS treatment if required”. This information has yet to be decided by the MDE who will dictate how much water can be pumped from the well.

Multiple town officials also requested a safe crossing between the two parcels of East and West, to make the plan more compatible with the MXD zone (walkability the key factor). A bridge or tunnel was suggested by the town with Pleasants constructing it. However, Pleasants still believes a “high visibility” crosswalk will be safe and effective at the Center Street and Rt. 27 intersection. They offered to leave space if the town would like to build a tunnel or bridge. For most residents that live in Mt. Airy, the idea of a crosswalk will be extremely unsafe and create more traffic woes for Rt. 27. The crossing would be downhill from the Twin Arch intersection, where many tractor trailers travel along Rt. 27, as well as commuter traffic. Also, if Knill's farm does not sell their piece of land to allow for the extension of Century drive, a road entrance would have to be created behind TJ Maxx or purchased from the LDS church. This would make the entrance 100 yards up from the crossing area to Center St. and Beck West. Those two areas will not be in line with one another, thus further separating the East side from the West and negating the “walkability” of this plan.

Speaking of traffic, Pleasants conducted their own traffic “survey” in December 2023 of the traffic issues within our town. Twin Arch intersection is rated as a “D” on a scale of A-F. They seem to think that they can fix the intersection with “transportation improvements,” but with no real plan or substantial adjustments to accommodate another potential 1000 cars on the road in town, especially at Twin Arch/Rt. 27, Center St./Main St. and Center St./Rt 27. There is no room to go around the road at these intersections and other intersections/side streets will also become overwhelmed by residents taking alternate routes to avoid congestion. Multiple town officials say their recommendations are “vague.”

The town's traffic issue puts an even bigger strain on our emergency services, such as Fire, EMS, and the Police Dept. With too many emergency calls and not enough EMS/Fire to handle it all, Pleasants only offers to give the town a one time payment of $578,000 to the Fire Dept (doesn't even buy a new ambulance), and $841,000 to the MAPD. These amounts will not cover the costs needed to expand services. In addition, heavier traffic on Main St., Center St., and Rt. 27 will make answering emergency calls difficult to maneuver and more dangerous. Furthermore, tight alleyways between the townhouses and houses in the revised plan also create a difficult situation for firefighters to maneuver through the new neighborhoods. Last, the large increase in seniors will strain our EMS, who already have 240 calls a month from the Lorien nursing home alone. Speaking of seniors, the plan will also strain our already at/over capacity senior center with such an influx of seniors.

The revisions of the Beck property plan has alleviated SOME of the concerns of town officials and residents, but many more questions still need to be answered before this plan can be approved. Many of their answers to questions were vague and non-committal. Hopefully, the officials keep up the hard work and continue to pick at the plan (or better yet, reject the plan altogether) to ensure the best outcome for the residents of Mt. Airy.

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תגובה אחת

Diane Michalek
Diane Michalek
23 במרץ

Excellent and comprehensive synopsis to Pleasants’ response. I 100% agree with you. It is imperative that we continue to be present at the Planning Committee and Town Council meetings.

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