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Development of Silver Fancy back on the table

Chris Patterson

(5/20/2004) The idea to develop Silver Fancy Farm in the Emmitsburg area is back on the table, with one difference from the past: This time there is no plan to annex the property into town.

Ed Smariga of Buckeye Development said Tuesday that he has submitted an application to Frederick County asking to build a wastewater treatment plant on 62.5 acres north of town. Silver Fancy Inc. owns the property, which is zoned for about 100 houses.

Emmitsburg residents derailed annexation of the Silver Fancy Farm property, which had been approved by town commissioners during summer 2002, by voting down the annexation request in the April 2003 town election.

Former Commissioners Ted Brennan and Clifford Sweeney voted for the annexation and subsequently lost their seats to anti-annexation proponents in two separate elections.

Former board President Patrick Boyle recused himself from all votes on the matter because members of his family own the property in question.

At the time, both Brennan and Sweeney had argued in approving the annexation request that the town could govern development of the property; if built outside town limits, the town would have no control over development.

Now it appears, the development effort is continuing, but outside the town's limits and control.

Smariga, who still holds the contract to purchase the property, is now trying to obtain permission from the county and the Maryland Department of the Environment to build a wastewater treatment plant that would eventually be turned over to the county to run.

The price tag on the plant would be $500,000 or more. Buckeye built the same type of plant in the Windsor Knolls development in southeast Frederick County about 10 years ago, Smariga said.

Frederick County's Director of the Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management Michael Marschner said he submitted a letter to the state Department of the Environment requesting the limits for discharge from Silver Fancy into Flat Run.

The letter asks the department to provide planning limits for two different amounts of discharge and two different locations along Flat Run.

The letter, obtained by The Gazette, was dated April 12, 2004.

Marschner said that in cases such as this, it could take months for a response. Requests for limits are rarely denied, Marschner said. The more likely result would be for the state department to set standards so severe that they would price the project out of consideration.

Smariga said he hasn't set a cost maximum yet, but acknowledged he does have a limit as far as costs are concerned to install the plant.

Marschner said Buckeye must bear the cost of the installation initially, but also could be required to continue to pay for the operation of the plant if those costs are too much for county taxpayers.

None of this project hinges on a recent proposal by Commissioner Michael Cady (R) to allow the private construction of wastewater treatment plants in some areas with what some describe as hardship conditions.

Smariga's request will comply strictly with the county's current guidelines on multiple properties and state requirements, he said, assuming the state comes up with conditions he can reasonably meet.

"I don't want to be in the sewer business," he said.

Smariga said he is considering building about 100 single-family homes, but the plan is not final. The property has been zoned for up to three houses per acre for "a long time," he said.

Marschner said getting the OK for a plant from the state under any conditions could be a problem for Smariga since one of the questions the environmental department will consider is if Flat Run can accept more discharge.

Since Emmitsburg is having its own battles with the state due to sewerage overflows in 2003, it is possible the whole idea could be turned down until the town's problems are fixed.

Emmitsburg Mayor Jim Hoover said his biggest concern with the plan to pursue development of Silver Fancy Farm is the impact on the town. His concern is that if the proposed system would fail in the future, the town would be required to allow the community to connect to town facilities. Emmitsburg would then provide service to the Silver Fancy community but wouldn't have the taxes or tap fees for it, he said.

Hoover strongly believes the county should not allow development with a private sewer plant in the Emmitsburg planned growth area. When the matter is heard before the county, he said the town would speak against it.

"We're going to fight it," he said. "I don't think [the county] should encroach on our growth limits."

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