folks in this border town welcome the
Pennsylvania residents who pass through on a
daily basis. They're like permanent
tourists: They support some town businesses,
but the locals don't have to educate their
children or provide them with police
But the goodwill for
the neighbors north of the Mason-Dixon line
tends to fade when talk turns to the
congestion on the streets of Emmitsburg.
A frequent complaint
of Emmitsburg residents is that the town's
streets are too crowded. Pennsylvanians who
cut through town to get to Frederick or
points beyond often are blamed for the
But as busy as
Emmitsburg's streets are now, the town might
be in for more tie-ups if the leaders of
Liberty Township, Pa., approve
a tentative planned residential
development request before them.
The Wormald Cos., a
Frederick developer, wants to build The
Community at Liberty on 710 acres of rolling
farmland not far from Emmitsburg. As
planned, the development would have about
1,140 housing units as well as commercial
about that density (of development) plopped
down in Adams County," Don Briggs, who lives
in Emmitsburg, said of people he knows from
both Pennsylvania and Maryland. "We like the
uniqueness of the area.
everybody's kind of getting a little
white-knuckled. I just don't know if we need
that suburban spin right in the middle of
To get to U.S. 15,
the only major highway nearby, the
development's residents would head down
Tract Road, hang a left, and join the crowd
along Emmitsburg's Main Street.
very little reasonable access to get (cars
from) that development out to Route 15 prior
to coming to Emmitsburg," said
Jim Hoover, Emmitsburg's mayor.
"I'd like to see them upgrade some of their
roads to get (cars) to Route 15 without
coming to Emmitsburg.
1,140 homes, and more than half will be
destined to running south on Route 15."
The mayor's point
can be confirmed. A recent survey of
vehicles traveling on West Main Street
during a high-traffic period showed that
more than half bore Pennsylvania license
everything, is relative. Emmitsburg doesn't
have the congestion evident in Washington or
its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
expectations are different in a town of
3,800 people that's almost 30 miles away
from any city of more than 10,000 people. In
that environment, it shouldn't take three
light changes to negotiate the town square
in a one-stoplight town.
To whatever degree
they exist, the traffic problems result
primarily from the domino effect of rising
housing costs. As home prices skyrocketed in
and immediately around Washington, people
looked farther away for affordable abodes.
Now, Frederick County's rapidly rising
housing prices are forcing some to head west
into Washington County or north to Adams
County to find a home they can afford.
It's what happens
when a bedroom community comes to need its
own bedroom community.
"It's unbearable if
we have a 10- to 15-car backup," said Mr.
Briggs, president of the
Emmitsburg Business and Professional
Association and operator of real
estate company, Briggs Associates Inc., in
the town. "It's expected in other parts of
Frederick. I moved here because of that, the
ease of getting to work."
Though it's not near
the state border, Middletown has its own
commuter traffic problem. Burgess Bill
Thompson said traffic converges on the town
along U.S. 40-A and Md. 17, meeting in the
main intersection. The town has cried for
help for 30 years, he said, but no one has
answered the call.
As if to tempt
residents, summer road projects gave the
town a taste of life without commuter
traffic. U.S. 40-A and Md. 17 were closed
for much of the summer.
"You could set up a
volleyball net on Main Street late in the
morning while all those roads were closed,"
Mr. Thompson said. "Unfortunately, it didn't
Highway Administration officials said
Pennsylvania commuter traffic uses Md. 97 to
pass through Westminster daily. The same
thing happens in Manchester and Hampstead as
Md. 30 provides a main artery to the
Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.
become popular with developers because its
regulations differ greatly from Maryland's.
Richard Schmoyer, director of planning and
development for Adams County, Pa., said that
while Frederick County hits developers with
impact fees to help pay for necessary
infrastructure improvements, Adams and most
other Pennsylvania counties don't.
The state, he said,
also has no "full-fledged" building codes.
It also gives control of land use, zoning
and subdivision approval to its townships
and boroughs, not its counties, which leads
to a zoning system Mr. Schmoyer described as
"The cost to produce
a house in Frederick County versus most
municipalities in Pennsylvania varies
substantially based on the regulatory
climate," Mr. Schmoyer said.
SHA spokesman David
Buck said Maryland does some transportation
cross-planning with neighboring states.
Those strategy sessions, however, deal with
expected growth patterns over the next 20 to
25 years, not individual developments.
The state has short-
and long-term plans, but growth in Frederick
and neighboring counties came faster than
"We never would have
thought to have this conversation 20, 15, 10
years ago," Mr. Buck said, "because people
wouldn't have thought about going that far
out (to live). There was so much growth so
quick that there are people who moved out to
those areas to get away from (congestion),
and they're right in the middle of it
over-the-border growth may be bad for
traffic, it's good for some businesses.
In Emmitsburg, the
Carriage House Inn probably gets 40 to 50
percent of its business from Pennsylvania
diners, according to owner Bob Hance. Though
he wouldn't provide numbers for proprietary
reasons, Lorne Peters, vice president of
operations for SNL Food Group, which
operates the town's Jubilee Foods, said the
market serves many customers from the
just outside of town also benefit from sales
to Pennsylvania customers.
But Gettysburg, Pa.,
also draws shoppers from Liberty Township,
Carroll Valley, Fairfield and other
communities northwest of Emmitsburg. Mr.
Briggs said Jubilee likely would lose its
Pennsylvania customers if a grocer moved
into The Community at Liberty's commercial
Mr. Hoover doesn't
know how much business the town gets from
its northern neighbors, but he thinks the
town's traffic troubles outweigh any
benefits. He'll send a letter to Liberty
Township saying that the town is concerned
about the impact Liberty development will
have on its streets.
While traffic is a
major headache for the mayor, rescue service
is Joe Pelkey's concern. The president of
the Emmitsburg Ambulance Co. (EAC) said his
units have first-due responsibility for a
good amount of territory in Pennsylvania,
including a part of the land targeted for
the Liberty development. He said about 40
percent of the calls EAC responds to are in
If the development
is approved and there are no major changes
in the mutual-aid agreement between
communities, Mr. Pelkey said Fairfield Fire
and EMS, a smaller volunteer company, will
serve most of the new homes and apartments.
Just serving its slice of the development --
and negotiating the narrow country roads
leading to the area -- will tax Emmitsburg's
"With all that
growth overall ... it's going to be very
trying," Mr. Pelkey said. "Hopefully some
people will move in who will be willing to
assist by volunteering."
If the development
is approved, how will Emmitsburg handle the
Mr. Hoover doesn't
have an answer, but he knows one is needed.
Main Street is only wide enough for two
lanes of traffic and parking on both sides.
Parking could be eliminated, but he called
that "unrealistic and unreasonable." Some
buildings don't have off-street parking.
Mr. Briggs would
like to see Pennsylvania build a northern
bypass to alleviate congestion in town. "I
can't see somebody in Baltimore paying for a
bypass that carries Pennsylvania traffic
around Emmitsburg," he said.
The mayor would
favor that, too, but he doubts it will
happen. He said he thinks it will be up to
Maryland to solve the problem.
The best solution,
he said, is a bypass, a project "talked
about for 20 years or more." It's never
gotten beyond the talking stage.
"Nobody's taken the
initiative to say, 'We're going to do this
one day, and here's how we're going to do
it,'" Mr. Hoover said.
Mr. Thompson said
Middletown got tired of talking and changed
its approach last year. It hired a lobbyist
to try to land federal funds to study the
traffic problem. Federal money, he said,
tends to pique state interest.
"That's our hope
right now," he said, "to get some federal
funds do a definitive study. If we get the
study funded with federal money, maybe we
can break through one of these days."