A tentative, indecisive board of
commissioners finally determined Thursday night that 30 more
town houses would do more harm than good for the town.
That conclusion resulted in the denial
of a request by RJD Development Corp. to rezone about 10 acres
so multi-family dwellings, not single-family homes and some
commercial space, can be built as. part of the Brookfield
subdivision. The board's vote was 3-1 with president Patrick
Boyle the lone dissenter.
Following the vote, Mr. Demmit said he
didn't know if he would or could try to have the land rezoned
again. He declined to say what he thought of the board's
decision, saying the question was stupid.
The denial came several hours after
the approval of the first additional housing in Emmitsburg in
more than a year. The commissioners unanimously approved
Bollinger Properties LLC's rezoning request so the company can
build 48 senior housing units.
In the evening's final public hearing,
RJD Development tried to sway the board to approve its request
despite a unanimous denial recommendation from the town's
planning and zoning commission. The desired changes would have
yielded about six developable acres.
Krista McGowan, the developer's
attorney, argued the land zoned for commercial use really
wasn't suitable for that purpose because it isn't visible from
West Main Street. She claimed a traffic study showed that if
homes were built on the land, they would generate fewer
peak-hour vehicle trips than if it was developed commercially.
She said the townhouses would fulfill
a need for affordable housing, and provide a buffer between
the dense houses and businesses along West Main and
Brookfield's single-family homes.
All four citizens who spoke at the
hearing opposed the plan. They questioned the student
enrollment and traffic estimates and said businesses were
needed in that part of town.
Mr. Boyle backed the request,
questioning whether a business would survive there and saying
the town needed more affordable housing. Commissioner Art
Elder, who campaigned on a no-growth platform in the spring,
said he wasn't for townhouses.
Motions by Mr. Elder to deny the
request and Mr. Boyle to approve it both failed for lack of a
second. Commissioner Clifford Sweeney withdrew a motion to
table the request until infrastructure problems were solved
when Town Manager David Haller said it was tantamount to
denial because of the time needed to complete water and sewer
Mr. Elder again moved to deny the
rezoning, and he got a second from Commissioner Joyce
Rosensteel. Mr. Sweeney eventually did to form a majority.
While the board rejected RJD
Development's plans, it embraced Bollinger Properties'
proposal. The rezoning increased the density for almost nine
acres, enabling. the owners to build four 12-unit buildings
restricted to residents age 55 and older.
Josh Bollinger, speaking for the
family partnership, said a lack of senior housing in
Emmitsburg forces some people to leave the town when they can
no longer maintain their homes. He said the project enables
the town to "have lifelong citizens," and estimated that the
units would sell for $140,000 to $160,000.
The board seemed convinced that
restricting the development to seniors would place no burden
on area schools and resulted in less traffic than other types
Bruce Dean, the attorney representing
Bollinger Properties, said the town's proposed managed growth
plan likely won't impact construction because it will be one
to two years before work can begin. But another board decision
could affect the project.
Bollinger Properties' annexation
request to allow construction of a 50-home, upscale
subdivision on an adjoining 20-acre tract will be heard in
early 2004, and the fiscal feasibility of building the senior
complex could be tied to that project. Mr. Dean said it was
premature to know whether the project is financially viable by
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