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Town to allow residents outside village zone to park in front of their homes

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(9/8/03) Parking in some of the town’s subdivisions got a lot easier Monday night, but Pembrook Woods wasn’t included.

The town’s board of commissioners voted to allow most residents outside its village zone to park in front of their homes for as long as two weeks at a time, but Pembroke Woods’ request for on-street parking was denied. Previous town ordinances allowed on-street parking for no more than 24 hours. Town Manager David Haller said those rules were written in 1977, when Emmitsburg was very different, and that many people in new developments should be able to leave cars parked on the street over a weekend or while they are on vacation.

Pembrook Woods, however, won’t benefit from the change. Pembroke Limited Partnership, which built the subdivision, got approval for a dry swale stormwater management system and narrower streets from a previous board of commissioners and planning commission. However, the company had to agree to prohibit on-street parking.

Michael Lucas, Emmitsburg’s planner, warned that because the swales abut the road, allowing on-street parking could damage them and cause erosion problems.

"I can’t see us changing it," board President Patrick Boyle said, "... without tearing up the whole development and what was approved by a previous council and previous zoning board."

Commissioner Art Elder, however, empathized with Pembrook Woods’ homeowners. "It seems it’s a shame that people have a $300,000 house and can’t hold a cookout (because there’s) no place to park your cars," he said. Bill O’Neil, a Pembrook resident, argued that the swale system isn’t working anyway. He asked the board to allow parking on one side of each street "so people can have Christmas and have relatives come in and not get tickets." Mr. Boyle’s motion to deny the request was backed by Clifford Sweeney, while Mr. Elder and Joyce Rosensteel opposed the motion. Because of the deadlock, no change was authorized.

Two town committee spots also were filled. By a 3-1 vote, Chris Staiger was chosen to serve on the planning and zoning commission, while former town commissioner Ted Brennan unanimously was named to the ethics committee. Mr. Staiger, a member of the board of directors of Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg (COPE), a grassroots political group, and Mr. O’Neil, COPE’s president, applied for the planning spot. Mr. O’Neil said the board should interview candidates for planning seats, calling it "the most important committee in town."

In closing his statements, Mr. O’Neil said, "Clearly this is a political appointment. Go ahead and make it."

Mayor Jim Hoover recommended Mr. Staiger for the vacancy. Mr. Boyle, Ms. Rosensteel and Mr. Sweeney voted for his approval. Mr. Elder cast the dissenting vote.

After the meeting, Mr. Sweeney, the board’s representative on the planning commission, said he had no problem with either candidate. He said he voted for Mr. Staiger because a negative vote would have resulted in a deadlock, meaning the seat might be unfilled for the next planning commission meeting, which includes an annexation request.

The board unanimously voted to amend its weed ordinance. The new rules allow the town to act if grass or weeds on a developed and improved lot reach as high as eight inches. On undeveloped and unimproved lots, the maximum height remained at 18 inches.

The issue grew from a comment by Dottie Davis, a former town commission member, at the July meeting, that 18 inches was too high in residential areas.

The commissioners also decided to spend $2,500 to buy 12 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial flags. They will be flown along town streets when the National Fire Academy, located in the town, has memorial events.

The commissioners continued discussion of three election-related matters and seemed to have reached a consensus. The board requested that documents be drafted to change the filing date from seven days to 21 days before an election. This will allow more time to prepare absentee ballots.

It also wants the next three elections to be for terms of three years and five months so the election date can be moved from April to October. Terms would revert to three-year periods thereafter.

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