Hires First Staff Planner
Post - (8/16/2003)
Michael Lucas doesn't have a plan for the
town, but he's working on one.
Mr. Lucas began work
Emmitsburg Town Government's
first staff planner. At its Aug. 4 meeting,
the town commissioners selected him from a
field of three finalists. He starts with a
Mr. Lucas said that
from a hospitality and geographic
standpoint, Emmitsburg reminds him of Signal
Mountain, Tenn. He grew up in that town,
which is located near Chattanooga.
"I've always been
fond of Emmitsburg," Mr. Lucas said. "When I
looked for a home (nearby), I looked at this
area and thought it would be a great place
In hiring the
51-year-old Cascade resident, Emmitsburg got
a man with extensive town planning
experience. Through the state's Department
of Economic and Community Development, he
provided planning services for seven rural
Tennessee towns and counties. He worked for
towns with as few as 2,600 residents -
roughly Emmitsburg's size - and counties
with populations of about 50,000 people.
Mr. Lucas holds
bachelor's degrees in history and political
science from East Tennessee State University
and a master's degree in public
administration and public policy from the
University of Tennessee. He also earned a
master's of divinity degree from the
University of the South in Sewanee, Ga., and
served as a vicar for two Lutheran
congregations in Newville, Pa.
The town previously
used county planners, but
Mayor Jim Hoover pushed to add a
staff planner because of inconsistencies in
town regulations. He successfully argued
that someone should be hired to study zoning
regulations and recommend changes to
eliminate code contradictions.
"The updates that
are needed are long-term," Mr. Hoover said.
"It's probably a never-ending, continuing
To the mayor, Mr.
Lucas stood out over other candidates
because of his knowledge, experience and
Mr. Lucas was hired
just as the town's planning and zoning
commission is considering two
requests and a rezoning application.
He should participate in those discussions,
but Jim Gugel, the Frederick County planner
who regularly works with Emmitsburg, is
expected to be the primary source of
information for the town.
Soon, however, the
mayor expects Mr. Lucas to be the town's
primary planning information source, though
Mr. Gugel's expertise will be available.
The town plan Mr.
Lucas is working on isn't original. It's a
revision of Emmitsburg's comprehensive plan,
last updated in 1998. The town requires it
to be updated every five to 20 years, and
Mr. Lucas thinks now is an appropriate time.
"With the rapidity
of change that's been going on in Frederick
County in the last 20 years," he said, "five
years seems like a reasonable window to
update that plan. Every five years, it's
reasonable to go back and look at the town's
planning apparatus and consider the changes
in the community."
As for his other
duties, Mr. Lucas views his role as one of
gathering and interpreting data and
presenting options to the board and planning
"They're the ones
responsible for setting the vision of the
community," he said. "The planner is a
During debate over
this year's budget, some residents
questioned whether Emmitsburg needed a
full-time planner. At that time, Mr. Hoover
said the job would be full-time for up to a
year but might become part-time.
however, his view was different. The mayor
said the board never determined that such a
transition should be made, and he thinks it
might be a full-time position permanently.
"Right now, at least
for the next year or two years, it must be
full-time," Mr. Hoover said. "I'm not sure
that there's going to be a switch. Only
time's going to tell us that."
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