Referendum on Annexation
The recently approved annexation of 67
acres into the town limits of Emmitsburg
will not happen if Bill O'Neill has his way.
O'Neill and about 19 other residents have
organized a group known as COPE -- Citizens
Organization to Preserve Emmitsburg -- to
petition the annexation to a town
The whole issue is about the annexation
of Silver Fancy Farm, which will be
developed by Buckeye Development into 130
homes. In late August, much to the dismay of
several town residents, the town's board of
commissioners voted 2-1-1 to approve the
Commissioners Ted Brennan and Clifford
Sweeney voted for the annexation, while
Joyce Rosensteel voted against it.
Commission President Patrick Boyle recused
himself from the discussions and vote
because his family owns the largest parcel
of land in the annexation.
Under the town charter, if COPE can
collect about 230 signatures (20 percent of
the current registered voters in the town)
by Oct. 20, the mayor is required under the
charter to hold a vote on the issue. That's
all O'Neill said the group wants and he
thinks that's what they will get. In fact,
they are going to try to get twice as many
signatures as they need.
"I think we are going to do very well
(getting the signatures)," he said. "
Everyone is interested in the petition....
It just puts the democratic process into
action...If you are a neutral resident of
Emmitsburg and haven't yet made your mind
up, this gives you more time to consider
Residents forced an annexation to go to
referendum in Brunswick as well. In August
voters supported a 1,505-home development
which will be located on 455.7 acres.
O'Neill said his argument is that
everyone in the town has a right to have a
say in decisions affecting the long term
health and welfare of the town, so a vote on
annexing the property should be something
the whole town decides. He and the others in
his group take issue with only two
commissioners having the ability to approve
As for the petitions, he said he doesn't
have to convince people to agree with his
concerns about the annexation. They only
have to agree that everyone should vote on
Of course O'Neill, a resident of
Emmitsburg since June of this year, said he
and the others are very concerned about the
annexation and do not want it to go forward.
O'Neill said the town does not have enough
water, the figures given for the estimates
in the schools are completely wrong and
traffic is a major problem now.
Mayor Jim Hoover, who signed the
resolution approving the annexation, said he
signed it so that a referendum could go
forward. If he had vetoed the resolution it
would mean that only one person him made
the decision. This way the whole town can
have a vote, he said.
Hoover said he feels the issues that the
group is raising were addressed in the
For example, the agreement will require
that the developer pay the full $400,000 to
replace the deteriorated water main at North
Seton Avenue. The town will credit back
$200,000 to the developer in tap fees but
Hoover said the town will have a new main
and still get over $800,000 in tap fees and
impact fees from the development.
In addition, the developer is required to
provide a well producing a minimum of 200
gallons per day for each of the 130 homes
before he starts to build. Because it will
take about four years to build all the
homes, the town will have the benefit of the
water for all that time. The developer is
also installing the equipment to treat the
water and ultimately turning all of this
over to the town.
And the reason the town is having the
infrastructure problems it is having is
because of the lack of action by previous
administrations, he said.
"The reason we are in this situation is
because previous administrations did not set
sewer and water tap money aside for
infrastructure repairs," he said by phone
Tuesday. "Silo Hill was built. Northgate was
built and none of that money was set aside
to make repairs...Northgate was allowed to
take an inadequate (water) line and use it
instead of making the developer pay 100
percent of cost, which is what should have
Hoover said because the water lines are
so poor, the town has very little fire
protection. Most of the fire hydrants that
depend on the failing water main are out of
service. That's another critical reason for
going forward with the annexation, he said.
Finally, the traffic issue is the result
of traffic from Pennsylvania and not from
the residents of Emmitsburg.
O'Neill said the town needs to find
another way to deal with its problems
because there are already about 260 homes
being built and there is no telling what
impact an additional 130 will have.
As for the critics who suggest the new
resident doesn't have the right to keep
others away, O'Neill said that's ridiculous.
He has as much right to a vote about what
happens in Emmitsburg as any other resident.
He said he's concerned about not having
water now and about the impact of those new
residents that haven't even moved in yet.
"I am saying it is not wise to move
forward with any more growth until we absorb
the growth that has already been approved,"
he said. "We don't know what the impact of
the 200-plus homes will be...and yes that
even means the impact of me and my family."
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