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Planning for Downtown Emmitsburg

Susan H. Cipperly, AICP
Town Planner

(10/1) The Town of Emmitsburg staff and elected officials have been working to implement the goals of the 2009 Comprehensive Plan since it was finalized. Some of the tasks that were accomplished were ordinances, zoning map revisions, and an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. One change to the zoning map was the combining of multiple kinds of commercial zoning into one uniform zone of B-2 - General Commercial - to make commercial development more feasible. During 2012, the town has made progress toward some tangible improvements in the downtown area, using the products and programs described below.

Architectural Guidelines - Maintaining the character of the Historic District is an important goal of the plan. The historic architecture on Main Street and Seton Avenues is remarkably intact, with very few buildings missing or greatly altered. In 1972, an inventory of the buildings by a historical consultant, and the efforts of a dedicated group of local citizens, resulted in the designation of the National Register Historic District in Emmitsburg in 1992. There was little guidance for owners of buildings within the Historic District until the Town of Emmitsburg Architectural Guidelines document was adopted in early 2012. We are fortunate that Keith Suerdieck, a retired architect living in Emmitsburg, volunteered to undertake this important project. The document is now available on the town website. It describes the architectural types that exist on Main Street, and provides guidance to owners who wish to make appropriate improvements on older buildings. It also mentions that new development should make an effort to relate to the architectural character of the town.

Sustainable Communities Program - Recently, the Town was accepted into a state program called Sustainable Communities (SC), which is overseen by the Dept. of Housing and Community Development. SC is a new program that united several funding sub-programs under one umbrella, or gateway program. A Sustainable Communities area was designated by a local SC Working Group, which was a requirement of the state program. It is basically the historic district with some extensions where it was thought to be beneficial to revitalization efforts. This area will be the focus of efforts at this time, but can be expanded in the future.

Community Legacy - Once we were approved for the SC program, we were able to apply for grant money from one of the sub-programs called Community Legacy. If our application is approved, there will be grant money available on a 50/50 matching basis for owners of properties within the SC area to make exterior improvements, e.g., faade improvements, painting, repair porches, etc. Improvements have to be approved by the Maryland Historic Trust as part of the process. We applied for $100,000 in grant money, which means that $200,000 of work could result from this application. The State will make its decision on our application in mid-November. More information on the details of the program will be provided after our application is approved.

Heart Of The Civil War Heritage Area Grant This grant was awarded to the Town in July, 2012. It will provide $28,000 in matching funds so that the Town can

undertake a design effort for the Square. The Town will provide its $28,000 match in the form of $20,694 cash, plus staff time and in-kind services. A request for proposals has been issued, seeking landscape architects, architects or engineers to conduct a design process that will include input from involved agencies, such as MD State Highway Administration and town staff, plus a public participation element to get ideas from local residents and businesses. The design firm will then take the ideas and work them into 2-3 design proposals and return for more interaction. The end result will be a design and a menu of cost estimates for the various parts of the project. This will help us by providing a plan to work from in deciding short- and long term capital investments, seeking donations, or applying for grant money to implement the various elements of the design. This type of quick turnaround design process with stakeholder input is often called a "charrette". This type of process is one of the most effective ways to approach a project like revitalizing the Square in Emmitsburg. The design firm provides multi-disciplinary staff, trained in eliciting input from all concerned, and translating those ideas into a workable design. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Town to work together on creating a vision for what the Comp Plan described as "a vibrant downtown". Information on how to participate will be provided on the Town website and other media when the consultant has been chosen and a plan of action has been put in place.

If you have any questions about these programs, you can e-mail Sue Cipperly, Town Planner, at suecipperly@emmitsburgmd.gov.

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