(10/6/2003) The town has another growth
controversy. People looking to comment on the Residential
Growth Management Plan being considered by the board of
commissioners packed the town office meeting room Monday
Those with direct financial stakes in
Emmitsburg's growth and some opposed to development stated
their positions, and board President Patrick Boyle was
involved in a heated exchange with a member of Citizens
Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg (COPE).
The plan would restrict the number of
building permits that can be issued over the next three years
to allow the town time to repair water and sewer
As proposed, it would allow 25
building permits to be issued each of those years. Five
additional permits could be issued based on hardship or
special circumstances, meaning a maximum of 30 permits would
be allotted annually.
The debate centered around two
arguments. Developers, one of their lawyers, builders,
marketers and a home buyer claimed the town's timing was
wrong. They argued that infrastructure problems should've been
considered before granting final approval to subdivision lots.
When the lots were approved, they assumed the land could be
developed on their timetable and started investing in their
Randall Whittenberger, a lawyer
representing Southgate developers Betty and Charles Hogendorp,
said his clients had between $1.5 million and $2 million
invested in the subdivision. He said the "builders relied on
the process of government. They've done what they had to do."
Susan Songy, whose company was hired
to market Southgate, said the change would double the time
needed to sell those homes, effectively cutting her income in
half. Contracts already are written for 21 of the
development's 33 lots, she said.
Proponents of slower growth, however,
touted the initiative. Bill O'Neil Jr., president of the
grassroots organization COPE, claimed that school overcrowding
and traffic increases also should be considered, too. He
asserted that reducing the number of permits issued to 17 or
even 10 annually produced far better results. "This proposal
is a step in the right direction," he said, "but I don't think
it goes far enough."
Mr. Boyle said he thought the plan was
"very valuable" but is being implemented improperly. "We
accepted the plats of these two developments," he said. "We're
putting this in after the horse is out of the barn.
The debate also involved an exchange
over Mr. O'Neil's right, according to Robert's Rules of Order,
to answer a question posed by Mr. Boyle.
When Lisa Elder, COPE's secretary,
angrily asked why Mr. Boyle wouldn't allow Mr. O'Neil to
speak, the board president slammed the gavel and told Ms.
Elder to be quiet because she was out of order. Mr. Boyle
later allowed Mr. O'Neil to answer the question.
The commissioners decided to hold
another public meeting on the plan on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in
the Sleep Inn conference room.
town's temporary ban on the issuance of building permits
will expire on Oct. 10. Commissioner Art Elder sought to
extend the ban while the growth plan is considered, but his
motion was not seconded.
Later, the board decided to hold a
separate public hearing on Richard Demmitt's request to rezone
part of the Brookfield subdivision. That hearing is set for
Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sleep Inn.
The board also finalized part of the
legislation required to shift the town's elections from May to
October. It unanimously agreed to amend its charter to allow
the next election for each commissioner's seat and the mayor's
position to be for a term of three years and five months
instead of just three years. Though the terms were changed,
the election date wasn't. The ordinance required to shift the
elections to October was tabled because it was written to take
effect immediately. After a motion to pass it was made and
Mayor Jim Hoover noted that passage would mean that
for three years, seats would be vacant for about five months
before an election to fill them was held. The election-date
shift shouldn't take place until 2007.
The commissioners also formally moved
the candidate filing date from seven days before an election
to 21 days prior. The change was made so absentee bal lots
could be provided earlier.
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