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Town Square plans draw praise

Richard D. L. Fulton

(11/21) Plans to revitalize the Emmitsburg Town Square has been well received overall by area businesses, town residents, and local commissioners.

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners voted unanimously at their November 5 meeting to approve a contract that could lead to improving the appearance of Town Square.

The contract to produce potential designs for Town Square improvements was awarded to Seth Harry & Associates, in association with Townscape Design and CMS Associates, in the amount of $41,710.

The draft, conceptual plans were made public at four special meetings held in November, two of which were held with members of the business community on November 7 and 9, and two open to the general public on November 14 and 15,

Attending several of those meetings were Susan Glass, co-owner of the Ott House, 5 West Main Street, Dora "Dee" Connoly, owner of Antiques Folly, 20 East Main Street, and town Commissioner Christopher V. Staiger.

Glass said, "We’re excited, although we were a little concerned and kind of skeptical at first. I went to a business meeting and community meeting."

"We went as business people because we wanted to know if things were going to change with the parking," she said. "That didn’t occur."

In fact, due to reducing the proposed size of the 12 existing parking spaces to county standards for 60 degree parking spaces, the current number of spaces can be maintained while still gaining ground that can be used to enhance the general area of the square.

She said the draft plans were "very nicely done. We’re excited about it. We like the idea. It’s going to be made very nice. We really like the idea of the clock (proposed on the square), and the area to sit around the square (with benches.)."

Glass also noted the current plans call for moving the pedestrian cross walks further back than their current locations. "I think that would be so much better. It’s kind of hard to get across the street (where the crossings are presently located).

Connoly stated, "I think it’s terrific and long overdue."

"Now that the parking spaces are assured," she said, "maybe we can do something with the peeling paint and the falling bricks…before the (Civil War) sesquicentennial and to encourage business to come here."

"I’m all for it," Connoly stated. "Who would want to open up a business where the town looks like that. It looks like it’s in decline rather than on the upswing. The square is the town jewel. I think we can do a little bit better (to improve the overall looks of the town)."

Connoly has also been planting some 250 flowers around the town tree wells and at the old Emmitsburg Hotel, with the owner’s permission, to help spruce up the appearance of the streetscape.

She said she was also happy with the proposals to change the crosswalks. "I like their plan where they move the crosswalks…Crossing there now is with your life. I’m thrilled about it."

Commissioner Staiger said, after attending two of the meetings help to present the concept to business and the public, "I thought they had found a good compromise that addressed all the historic competing interests using the space, and that it is a plan that we should probably pursue."

"It is nice because it increases the perceptual space," he stated. " The traffic will have to stop back further as well, so you will open up that space in the square that is not that way now."

He said, however, there was "no discussion so how we intend to pay for this. We’re sort of charging into this without a lot of thought about how we’re going to fund it."

Staiger said he was also concerned that the Town Square was getting the overwhelming amount of attention, when other aspects of the town should be addressed as well.

"My position is that these improvements to the Town Square are worthwhile to pursue, but they can’t be the only thing we pursue. Here we have other keys elements of vitalization that need to be addressed."

The plans present to business and town residents in November will now be further refined, with another meeting to be scheduled in December to present the advanced drafts to the public.

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