Special to the Dispatch
(10/9) For the past 18 months the planning and
zoning committee has been toiling with the town's new
comprehensive plan, and could still take until February of next year to
of Town Planner Michael Lucas in December 2005 further stalled progress
on producing a draft plan.
Work on the comprehensive plan was revived in April
2006 with the hiring of planning consultant Christopher Jakubiak of Jakubiak
and Associates, Inc. At that time, the town also decided to throw out the draft
they had been working on and start fresh. "Mr. Jakubiak has got the comp plan
back on schedule," Mayor James E. Hoover told The Dispatch.
Delays and little public involvement
The town's first comprehensive plan was approved in
1974. The current plan was adopted in 1998.
State law requires that a town's comprehensive plan be
updated every five years. While the town does not incur any specific penalties
for a delayed comp plan final draft, it can make getting approval from the
state on certain matters difficult. "It's really hard to get approval from the
state about things concerning the environment," said Commissioner Glenn
Hoover, while frustrated with the delay, noted this as
a common problem among towns, stating "I've never known of one to be done on
"Everybody wants to make sure it's done right,"
Blanchard stated, "It has a very powerful impact on the town as far as the
direction of its development."
Hoover is troubled by the lack of citizen involvement
in the process of drafting the plan, but not surprised. "It's a common thing in
every town. There are a few potential property owners of commercial property
that come out to listen, but input is very low," he recently said.
Potential revenues from Civil War designation
The updated comprehensive plan calls for the town to
become a certified "Heart of the Civil War" area. "To a great extent we're
trying to capitalize on our history as far as the Civil War," stated Blanchard.
"This will help to publicize the fact that the town of Emmitsburg was important
during the Civil War and will hopefully draw more tourism."
Town population may nearly double
One of the many major topics included in the comp plan
is potential growth of the community. As of July 2005, the population of the
town was estimated to be 2,369 people. Hoover said that the new draft of the
plan estimates a population growth of up to 5,500 people over the next 20
years, almost doubling the town's population.
Hoover is pleased with the prospect of three percent
yearly growth of the town, noting, "This is a very manageable, very reasonable
concept that you're going to get three percent growth."
Rising housing costs
The plan also discusses the cost of housing in the
community. Hoover estimates that the average cost of housing in Emmitsburg is
around $225,000. "Frederick County in general, whether you live in the county
or in a municipality, it has become more difficult to find moderately priced
housing," the mayor said.
Don Briggs, a local realtor for over 10 years, has been
trying to attend comprehensive plan meetings. He sees the rising cost of
housing as an emerging problem in the community. "I see a lot of elderly people
moving out because they have no place to go," Briggs told The Dispatch. "I see
a lot of young people who cannot afford to live here who are moving up to
Pennsylvania." He believes that the style of homes being built in Emmitsburg is
causing inflation of housing costs.
Opportunity for rezoning zoning requests
The town will be tackling the tougher issue of zoning
in upcoming meetings. "Zoning is always the toughest because you really could
change a property owners' rights," Hoover said. According to the mayor, the
best time for citizens to request rezoning is during the redrafting of the
During the review process, anybody can request rezoning
for any piece of property, Hoover pointed out. Otherwise, a request for
rezoning must be presented to the board with proof of either a significant
change in the community, or that there has been a mistake in the plan.
Ordinances needed this time
Walbrecker, who served as a town commissioner and was liaison to the
planning commission in 2004, believes that the previous plan was flawed in that
it was not tied to any ordinances.
"Once it was done in '98 they never changed the
ordinances," Walbrecker stated. "To make that vision a reality you have to
change your town ordinances."
Planning commission member Larry Little believes that
while ordinances should be re-examined, there should always be room for the
town to change. "We need to look at each ordinance and see how they impact the
comp plan," Little said, "but the comp plan should never be hard and fast."
The town hopes to have a draft of the updated plan
finished by February of next year. Once completed, the draft will be submitted
to the commissioners who will review the plan and make their suggestions.
The next workshop on the comprehensive plan will be
Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the town meeting room.
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