When Bill O'Neil Jr. looks at Emmitsburg's Managed and
Sustained Growth Proposal (MSGP), he sees a reasoned way to
control residential growth while the town makes critical
When Tom Carolan looks at the same document, he sees
Those divergent visions are the reason Emmitsburg's board of
commissioners is feeling sharp growing pains that show few
signs of subsiding anytime soon.
Discussion of the town's MSGP drew about two dozen people to
the Sleep Inn conference room Wednesday night. The
commissioners seem to be weighing the need to curtail growth
because of water and sewer line problems versus the town's
obligation to developers who invested heavily in projects
without warning that the town might restrict their building
As currently written, the proposal would cap the number of
residential building permits the town issues annually.
Twenty-five would be awarded based on a formula, and the board
could issue up to five more in special circumstances.
The town recently experienced a spike in development, rising
from issuing 10 permits both in 1999 and 2000 to 51 already
this year. Thirteen of those 2003 permits were issued in the
three days after a temporary building-permit suspension was
Mr. Carolan and Richard Demmit, developers with approved
subdivision plats in the town, said they don't fault the town
for wanting to manage its growth. However, they contended such
a decision should have been made before the plats were
approved, before they started pre-selling homes, before they
invested hundreds of thousands of dollars for infrastructure
to serve their developments.
"I'm hearing tonight ... that I might be five years out
getting permits for houses," said Mr. Carclan, president of
Appletree Homes, who plans to build 33 homes in the Southgate
subdivision. "That would be financial ruin for me."
Three men with contracts for homes in Southgate also spoke
about the problems they'd encounter if construction is delayed
and questioned whether placing limits this late in the
building process was right.
Timing also was a key issue addressed by Randy Whittenberger,
a lawyer representing Appletree Homes. He said Appletree made
improvements required by the town and relied on the government
to allow the completion of the project once the subdivision
plats were approved. Because of its commitment, he argued,
Apple tree shouldn't be affected by any growth restrictions.
"It's beyond the 11th hour for them," he said.
Despite the potential hardships, Emmitsburg has serious
concerns warranting restrictions. Town Manager David Haller
said its wastewater treatment plant exceeded its maximum
design capacity limits one of every three days in September
and faces steep state fines if the problem persists.
Wildwater is the system's main problem, and repairs on a line
believed to be the main source of infiltration should be
completed in about a year. Mr. Holler said he thinks the town
might avoid fines or be able to bargain for their reduction if
a responsible growth plan is enacted.
Mr. O'Neil, speaking for
Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg, said state
penalties aren't the only ones possible. He said any citizen
could sue the town for violating the Clean Water Act.
"Sewage spilling into streams is a violation of federal law,"
MSGP proponents also said school overcrowding and traffic
congestion are valid reasons to curb growth.
Commissioner Art Elder said he thought the town should take
the advice of its planner and impose the restrictions, but his
board colleagues want more information. Commissioner Clifford
Sweeney said he wants more data
on schools, and Commissioner Joyce Rosensteel said she didn't
like the plan as written.
Mayor Jim Hoover said he thought the 25-permit
annual allotment was too low because the town has made a
commitment to the developers. "Is the town's word going to be
worth anything or not?" he asked.
Patrick Boyle, president of the board, noted it has potential
legal problems regardless of what it decides. He said he'd
like to know more about the legal ramifications of various
decisions, and the town will try to set a public meeting with
the town attorney the week of Nov. 10.
Prior to accepting comment on the MSGP, the board unanimously
voted to accept two loans from the Maryland Department of the
Environment to improve troublesome infrastructure. The loans
will finance the replacement of the Little Run sewer line and
Mountain View Road water line.
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