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County moves to downzone
 properties around Emmitsburg

(3/20) The Frederick County Commissioners took action on Mar. 17 that would lead in the downzoning of properties adjacent to the municipal boundaries of Emmitsburg.

“In the broad scheme of things, I don’t want anything sitting outside of the town’s borders that is zoned and planned for development,” Commissioner Lennie Thompson said during a commissioners workshop.

Parcel by parcel, he began proposing that properties adjacent to Emmitsburg be downzoned from their residential designations to agricultural land use designations, which would lead to a zoning change to agricultural as well.

Thompson said that in doing so, it “removes the gun cocked at Emmitsburg’s head to annex.”

He believes that if the county designates land for any type of development, a developer could tell a municipality that if the municipality doesn’t annex the property under terms favorable to the developer, the developer will develop the land under that county low-density designation.

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover said after the meeting that he doesn’t buy this reasoning. “If it was possible to do, Silver Fancy would have been developed long ago.” The owners want to develop the property but it has been rejected for annexation and it still remains undeveloped.

He said the properties can’t develop outside of town because there are no water and sewer resources to use. The town will be limited in how fast it develops as well because the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is requiring future growth to be in balance with available water resources.

“Our threat is Pennsylvania more so than unincorporated parts of the county that surround us,” Hoover said. “This is truly nothing more than a smoke screen by Lennie [Thompson].”

However, this move runs counter to county policy which says that if a municipality designates land for future growth, the county does not give it conflicting zoning.

With conflicting zoning between the county and municipality, the county has the ability to delay any development through annexation by five years by not granting a waiver of inconsistency. This is part of what happened to Myers Farm annexation in Thurmont last year.

“The full intent of this proposal is to say bye-bye to development,” Hoover said.
By the time, the commissioners had rezoned most of the properties around the town, Commission President Jan Gardner discovered a possible problem with what they had done.

“We probably should have left a lot of this as LDR [low-density residential] and then changed the zoning to ag,” Gardner said.

She said the commissioners would probably have to go back and change many of their votes to reflect this. Hoover said he wouldn’t have a problem with this change so much because it still designates the planned land use for some type of residential development.

The commissioners plan to meet with municipal officials on Apr. 24 to discuss their concerns with the plan. Then the draft plan will have a public hearing on May 13.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government