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Town Council OKs Bollinger Annexation

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(2/2/04) A 20.3-acre parcel has received town government approval to be brought within Emmitsburg's limits, but whether that actually happens might be decided by voters in April.

Monday night, Bollinger Properties LLC won approval to have its land off Irishtown Road annexed. The Emmitsburg board of commissioners voted 3-1 to accept the parcel, which virtually is engulfed by the town.

After the vote, however, BiIl O'Neil Jr. said the board's action might go to referendum. Mr. O'Neil, president of Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg Inc. (COPE), said the organization may start a petition to have the annexation placed on the ballot for the April 27 election.

COPE formed last year to oppose another annexation, one voters rejected 3-to-i.

Mr. O'Neil said the general sentiment of COPE's members is that the town should solve its sewer crisis before considering annexing any land. He also said that a provision of the annexation agreement providing a town tax exemption if a building moratorium is imposed amounts to "a giveaway for the developers at the expense of the taxpayers."

The opposition voiced by four people was the first heard at a public hearing. No one spoke against the annexation when the town's planning and zoning commission recommended its approval by a 4-0 vote.

Mr. O'Neil and Harold Craig, COPE's vice president, adamantly opposed the request. They contended that traffic will be worse, schools will be more overcrowded and taxes will go up.

In closing his prepared comments, Mr. Craig said he hoped the wishes of the voters "will not be ignored again by all but one commissioner," referring to Art Elder. The statement prompted Patrick Boyle, the board's president, to chuckle and toss his pen to the table.

Catherine Forrence also urged the board to deny the request, suggesting that the town buy the land and build a park there.

The lone citizen speaking for the annexation was Larry Little. He said the land will be developed eventually and the Bollingers, who are longtime local residents, were willing to make concessions that benefit the town.

The Bollinger partnership then proved Mr. Little's claims, yielding to all recommendations made by the town staff, board members and mayor. It agreed to give up its request for exemption from any Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and tax relief until development began, and paying $75,000 to the town for sewer repair.

Michael Lucas, Emmitsburg's planner, said the $75,000 covers the estimated construction cost for the part of the Little Run sewer line running through the Bollingers' property. The line is scheduled to be replaced this year.

Commissioner Joyce Rosen-steel and Mayor Jim Hoover were concerned about when the property would be developed and its impact on the sewer system if the town failed to enact a managed growth plan or moratorium. The Bollingers essentially accepted a moratorium on their property, agreeing that the land will not be developed until the town goes 180 consecutive days without exceeding the design capacity at its wastewater treatment plant.

In case the town imposed a moratorium, the Bollingers had asked to be exempt from town

while it was in effect for a period of up to five years. At the mayor's behest, the developers accepted a reduction of that period to three years.

Mr. Elder, the lone dissenter on the board, said he thought it was a good project but couldn't support it given the problems the town has with its sewer system.

Commissioner Cliff Sweeney, however, reasoned that the Bollingers "most likely won't be building any houses until we get the sewer lines fixed anyway." Mr. Boyle said annexation opponents were off base when they claimed the town got nothing out of the deal, pointed to the money provided for sewer-line repairs and upgrading Irishtown Road.

If  COPE opts to try to take the matter before the voters, it will have 45 days from when the annexation resolution is passed to gather valid signatures from 20 percent of the town's 1,020 registered voters. The resolution is expected to be ready for the board's March 1st meeting.

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