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Emmitsburg decides against planning consultantís recommendations

Ashley Andyshak
Frederick News-Post

(7/20) Planners honored landowners' requests while ignoring recommendations from a consulting firm about the town's comprehensive plan.

About a dozen landowners made specific requests about how they'd like their property zoned in the plan. When completed, it will show how Emmitsburg land should be used over the next 20 years.

Planners disagreed, but eventually relented, Wednesday during the workshop about how they should designate property owned by W. Dale Hess Jr., which is zoned for commercial use.

Hess requested the land, north of Md. 140 between Silo Hill Road and U.S. 15, be designated a village zone. That would allow commercial and residential use on the same property.

Sarah Franklin, senior associate at Jakubiak and Associates, said the land would be best suited for commercial use in the coming years. Jakubiak and Associates is the consulting firm helping the town update its comprehensive plan.

"We want to focus the village zones downtown, and revitalize downtown first," Franklin said. "There will be demand in the 20-year plan for commercial use on this site."

Franklin and Commissioner Tim O'Donnell said the property's proximity to U.S. 15 would not suit potential residences.

"I'm not a fan of putting residences up against a highway," O'Donnell said. "This is a near-perfect commercial site, and it's convenient to the town and the highway. I think the town would have a better advantage in retaining this as a commercial site."

Hess' representative said Wednesday that he's not planning high-density housing on the site and that large retail stores would not fit in the area because of the number of utility easements.

"He's not looking at a high-rise," said Libby Briggs of Briggs Associates, who spoke on Hess' behalf.

"It's a very difficult site to construct on, and it does not lend itself to box stores."

The commission directed Franklin to designate the area a village zone in the draft comprehensive plan.

Planners also honored a request by Donald Briggs, who owns several parcels east of U.S. 15 near Md. 140. Briggs requested his land be designated for a variety of uses, including commercial, residential, highway service and industrial.

Franklin recommended the area be limited to industrial and highway service, stating that residences would not mix well with an industrial park. She also said if senior housing was built on the site, as has been proposed, those residents would be isolated from town services west of U.S. 15.

Jakubiak and Associates also recommended that properties owned by James Stockman and James Fitzgerald be designated for open space and conservation, but planners granted the landowners' requests for commercial or residential zoning in each case.

Commissioners are updating the comprehensive plan to prepare for growth. Franklin presented projections showing the town could grow by 2.75 percent per year and could be home to 1,950 households by 2030.

Planners hope to have a draft of the updated plan ready for a public hearing in the next few months. Alignment of a town bypass and a review of water resources will be discussed at upcoming planning sessions and workshops.

"We're headed down the right road, we just need to stay there," commission Chairman Larry Little said.

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