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Growth Plan Decision Draws Near

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

A decision on the town's immediate growth plans may be made on Monday.

The board of commissioners will hear more information on a proposed Managed and Sustainable Growth Plan (MSGP) for the town when it meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Sleep Inn conference room. If a decision is made, it should be at least a month before an ordinance is drafted and passed incorporating those mandates.

The growth plan isn't the only item the board will tackle at its first meeting of 2004. The commissioners are slated to discuss raising water and sewer hookup fees, the impact fees charged for new development, and whether to pursue an ordinance man-dating sprinkler systems in new homes. They also will consider revising the town'ssidewalk policy to make it easier for the town to force residents to fix damaged areas in front of their homes.

However, the MSGP, discussed by town leaders for months, is the item that should draw the greatest interest. The number of zoning certificates, the town's equivalent of a building permit, issued annually in Emmitsburg has grown from 10 in 1999 and 2000 to 60 last year.

Anti-growth advocates claim the town has grown too fast and should place stringent limits on growth. But developers building in the town argue that there were no warnings about potential restrictions when they started their projects, so they should be allowed to proceed naturally. They've been joined by people who have contracted homes which may not get built on schedule if a growth plan is passed.

Wastewater is the key reason the plan is being considered. Because of infiltration and inflow problems, the town's treatment plant was overwhelmed at times in 2003, causing untreated sewage to be spilled. Those breaches likely will draw fines from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Zoning certificates issued in Emmitsburg

1999 10
2000 10
2001 22
2002 34
2003 60

Town officials hope the fines will be reduced if they take steps to alleviate the problem. A sewer line thought to be the' entry point for much of the system's wild-water should be replaced this year, and restricting growth to limit the amount of wastewater entering the system would enhance that commitment.

Public discussion has involved limiting the number of zoning certificates issued by the town. In recent weeks, however, the plan's focus has shifted to the number of sewer hookups allotted.

Michael Lucas, the town planner, has evaluated the existing infrastructure to determine how much extra wastewater the town can accept safely. He won't reveal his determinations before Monday's meeting, but he said he'll propose drafting a capital-improvement plan to replace "antiquated" sewer-collection lines.

When the sewer system reaches certain performance levels, sewer hookup restrictions can be eased or eliminated.

In assessing the system, Mr. Lucas said he considered infiltration and inflow statistics from the wastewater plant in 2003, including the number of times it exceeded its design capacity and the amounts involved during those episodes. He also tried to determine the risk of future spills given the state of the system.

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