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Group Organizing Petition Drive
to Stop Silver Fancy Annexation

Katherine Heerbrandt
Frederick News Post

Residents turned out in force for the town meeting on Aug. 5 to voice their opinions about the proposed development that would bring 140 new housing units to the north end of town.

Town commissioner Pat Boyle wants to annex his 66 acre farm into the town so that it can be developed by Ed Smariga, owner of Buckeye Development. The majority of the residents who spoke were against annexation, citing quality of life issues, and the burdens yet another development would have on the townís schools, stores, services and traffic. Some residents said they were not necessarily against the annexation, provided they could get some assurance that proposed improvements to the town were actually made.

The current plan proposes 12 acres be developed at medium density and 44 acres at low density. Mr. Smariga wants to build a total of 65 houses and 75 townhouses. Another 8.5 acres is earmarked for open space, while the remaining 1.5 acres is a business property.

A vote on the annexation was postponed to the Aug. 29 meeting so that developer, Mr Smariga, could investigate the costs of water line improvements along North Seton Avenue.

Meanwhile, a loosely organized group of citizens is gearing up to petition for a referendum if the commissioners vote for annexation. A petition for referendum requires the signatures of at least 20 percent of the townís estimated 1,100 registered voters.

Amy Phillips, a three year resident, said she and her husband Larry moved to Emmitsburg to get away from sprawling growth. She is concerned that the town does not have the services and stores to accommodate the growth that is threatening her new hometown.

"They are going to want more facilities and we just donít have them," she said.

She added that she is willing to do the legwork required to get a petition started and planned to speak to town planner, Jim Gugel.

Mr. Phillips is distrustful of developer's promises. "There is a part of history of developers not meeting their commitments," he said. He said he is unfamiliar with Buckeye Development's history and was referring to developers in general.

The crunch on school enrollment is a big concern, said 11year resident Glenn Blanchard, a teacher at Catoctin High School, said that his classes are already crowded. "The enrollment at CHS is at 71 percent capacity, while Thurmont Middle is at 80 per, cent capacity. I have an average of 30 students in my classes already. With 300 new homes going in on the west side of town, and Thurmont growing, do we really need to be at or over 100 percent capacity so soon?' he asked.

Longtime resident Stephanie Harrington agreed with Mr. Blanchard's assessment. "I donít think that we should develop more housing than the schools can handle," she said. Ms. Harrington a school teacher at Ballenger Creek Elementary School, expressed concern about the capacity of the water lines and the additional traffic. "It's not that I donít want the town to grow, itís just that I donít think the town can handle another development right now. I would rather see more business and industry come to town"

Susie Glass, a business owner, and lifelong resident, said she is not against annexation, but added that it is going to be developed, I want the town to have some control over how it is developed."

Mr. Blanchard said that ideally,. he would like to see the development stopped altogether, but barring that, a lower density development would be acceptable.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government