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Take a first look at the town comp plan draft

(2/15) The Emmitsburg Planning and Zoning Commission is beginning to work through a draft of the town comprehensive plan that, when approved by the town commissioners, will lay out the plan for Emmitsburg’s development for the next 25 years.

“As a guide, this Comprehensive Plan allows Emmitsburg to make day-to-day development decisions on the basis of reasoned and adopted policies, rather than on the individual merits of proposals,” the plan reads.

The Dispatch obtained a copy of the 84-page draft through a freedom of information request. Here’s a look at some of the items of interest.


After Emmitsburg’s fast-growing decade in the 1990s when it grew faster than Frederick County (3.1 percent a year vs. 2.66 percent), growth has leveled off to its pre-1990 levels. Even so, the town’s projected population over the 30 years since 2000 is expected to more than double, to 4,875 residents.

Emmitsburg is also becoming a town of new residents versus “old-timers.” The draft plan notes, “Six out of every ten persons added to the population since 1960 were added between 1980 and 2000.”

This does not mean that the residents aren’t older, however. About 21.4 percent of the town’s population are senior citizens, as compared to 9.6 percent countywide. The draft plan attributes some of this difference to the fact that senior group quarters like St. Catherine’s and Villa St. Michaels account for much of the living space in Emmitsburg.

Economic Development

The draft plan notes that among Emmitsburg’s 116 businesses, “The Town differs from the County in that the County has a relatively large number of businesses in Professional, Scientific, and Technical services while the Town has more Religious and Automotive establishments which make up the Other Services category.”
Also, employment opportunities in town are more than double the number of available workers, though only 18 percent of the town’s workforce actually work in Emmitsburg.

Between 1998 and 2003, the number of jobs in town increased from 1,955 to 2,486. That’s a 27 percent increase for Emmitsburg compared to a 24 percent increase in Frederick County during the same time period.

“Despite the higher levels of employment within the area, the median income for Emmitsburg is lower than that of nearby municipalities as well as significantly lower than the County as a whole. Factors that contribute to this likely include a relatively low labor force participation rate along with the presence of college students and senior citizens,” the draft report reads.

The draft plan recommends that the area along Creamery Road be gradually transformed from industrial uses to light industrial and business park uses “which are more compatible with an in-town location and the surrounding institutional and residential uses.”


More than half of the housing units in Emmitsburg are single-family homes and slightly less than 6 percent are vacant.

The average age of a house in Emmitsburg is 68 years.

In recent years, the number of permitted housing units in town has been growing at a rate of about 32 a year, but these are more-expensive homes and not generally considered workforce housing.

Within the town boundaries, the draft plan notes, “Emmitsburg has infill potential for about 200 additional units at a density of 3.5 units per acres within the Town boundary.”

The draft notes that the town’s growth will be accelerating. “It is projected that between 2009 and 2030 new units will be added at a rate of about 40 unites per year, or 840 new households in total. By 2030, the Town may be expected to have approximately 1,950 households.”

For future development, the report states, “Development in the floodplains along Tom’s Creek, Flat Run, and Middle Creek is to be avoided due to the increased potential of flooding when vegetation is removed from the stream buffer.”

Currently, Emmitsburg has about 60 houses, located in Brookfield and Southgate, in its development pipeline.

The plan recommends no new rural residential zoning within the town’s municipal growth boundary. However, being within the boundary does not mean the property is within the town limits. Because of this, the county government could still issue rural residential permits. If so, the draft plan recommends not extending water and sewer services to the lots.

Areas for future residential development should expand to the north, filling the area between Brookfield and Route 15. Other residential development should be between Mountain View Road and Annandale Road.


The traffic on Route 140 in the Emmitsburg area has increased 149 percent between 1980 and 2005. To help alleviate this traffic, a new bypass alignment is suggested for the town.

Emmitsburg Mountain View Parkway would begin near the Md.-Pa. line and follow Mountain View Road. It would then continue across a new road across Annandale Road to South Seton. From there, it would continue eastbound along Route 15.

“The recommended parkway is preferred because [it] is less disruptive to sensitive environmental features, agricultural lands, and to existing residential uses, it can be made part of a land use development plan and thus is farm more likely to be implemented, directs traffic into arrangements that can have a positive economic benefit to the Town, provides a more direct routing to U.S. 15, and it is more compatible with small town character and the land use plan recommend herein,” the plan states.

The bypass would include one lane in each direction, with median strips separating the lanes from sidewalks and bicycle lanes and from each other. The bypass speed limit would be 35 miles per hour.

Overpasses are also proposed sometime in the future for the North and South Seton interchanges with Route 15.


The draft report notes that the compactness of the town creates good potential for mixed used communities and the efficient use of infrastructure.

“Emmitsburg’s geographic location makes it a prime candidate for adopting ecological principles into its planning decisions,” the report states. The town should seek to create interconnected green corridors and parks.

The plan also recommends that the town apply to become a Main Street Maryland community and adopt an adequate public facilities ordinance.

The comprehensive plan was last updated in 1998. This draft plan will be discussed and altered by the planning commission and then sent on to the commissioners for their debate and approval.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government