Residents Fear Development
Will Rob Liberty
Bobby Keilholtz looks out his living room
window, he sees wide open fields and about
five or six light poles.
But if the Liberty
Township board of supervisors votes to
approve a 1,140-home development, he could
be staring at what he describes as a
"It's going to
change our quality of life," Mr. Keilholtz
Township residents agree, saying they're
worried the 710-acre project near the
Maryland border will increase crime, lower
well-water levels, strain the school system,
damage already crumbling roads and diminish
the mostly agricultural community.
At least one
resident supports the plan.
pointed to a spot on a developer's sketch.
"I envision a little
Starbucks right there," said Ms. Williams,
who has to travel 45 minutes for a latte.
"This is a great
thing. It's going to bring in jobs, and it's
a chance for growth," she said.
The debate over the
development, The Community at Liberty,
reached the board Tuesday night, where it
abruptly hit a snag.
More than 250
residents showed up - most opposing the
project - and were then silenced by the
board. Because the project wasn't on the
night's agenda, they weren't allowed to
"We didn't even get
to speak our piece," said Diane Bittle, who
said she e-mailed and made phone calls to
the board asking that the Liberty
development be placed on the night's agenda.
The project, in the
southwestern part of Adams County outside of
Fairfield, has been designed by The Wormald
Companies, which also developed The Links
and Worman's Mill in Frederick. When
complete, it would more than double the
population of Liberty Township.
chairman of the board, received news midday
Tuesday that 50 people might show up the
monthly Liberty Township meeting, an
increase from the 15 residents who usually
attend. This number soon swelled to more
"I'm shocked," he
Most residents said
they learned about the proposed subdivision
about two weeks ago. About 50 residents,
hoping to preserve their quality of life and
remove what they describe as a threat,
quickly formed Save Our Liberty. Ms. Bittle
said she received calls non-stop Wednesday
morning from residents wanting to join the
group hoping to preserve their rural
After she found out
about the Liberty subdivision, Ms. Bittle
began calling friends and neighbors.
anything about this," she said."We aren't
being informed about something that is
drastically going to affect our community."
approached Wormald in 2000 to develop the
property, said Ken Wormald, a vice president
at the company, which started work in 2002
and submitted a plan to the supervisors in
Ms. Bittle showed up
at Tuesday's meeting carrying zoning maps
and county regulations.
"The land is zoned
for agriculture, residential and
conservation and very low density housing,"
she said. "Liberty Township does not allow
for personal residential development."
Ms. Bittle and other
residents said they believe the board is
trying to slide the development in under the
wire because new zoning regulations are in
the works that would ban such a development
in Liberty Township.
"They are basing
this on our comprehensive plan, which
incorporates old zoning ordinances," she
said. "They are very close to updating to
new zoning ordinances. For a developer to
come in and ask for a personal residential
development based on the new ordinances is
fine to me, but to ask for it based on
ordinances from the 1970s is not right to
If given the green
light by the board of supervisors, the
development would be built over the next 15
years, following ordinances from 20 years
ago, instead of ordinances now in the
But Mr. Sites said
the way Wormald presented the development,
it is within the existing guidelines.
"The state treats it
as a different concept," he said. "It is not
considered a subdivision. That doesn't mean
a thing here."
and traffic were also high on the list of
resident concerns. Emmitsburg
Hoover also was in attendance, concerned
that 1,140 more homes might mean 1,140 more
drivers would be commuting from Liberty
Township through Emmitsburg on their way to
Mr. Wormald said he
anticipated some opposition to the
"With this size of a
community, it's very normal," he said,
referring Liberty Township's population of
1,050. "There's always going to be the
people who don't want to see any additional
But he also said the
residential development incorporates the
township's rural atmosphere with an
equestrian theme, riding trails and
While Mr. Sites said
he hasn't decided how he will vote, he
described the proposed Liberty development
as "beautiful" but did say it would have "a
major impact" on the surrounding community.
"The people are
concerned with taxes, roads and the impact
on schools," he said.
While the majority
of the attendees showed a clear opposition
for such drastic growth, some residents
don't think their opinion, when put on the
record at the public hearing Sept. 8 at 7:30
p.m., will be considered.
"Just because the
community doesn't want it, doesn't mean it's
not going to happen," said Sherry Stein, who
lives about a mile from the proposed site.
According to the
board of supervisors, one of three things
can come of the proposal. The board can
accept it as is, make changes and accept it,
or deny it.
But one resident
questioned the board about the relevance of
the process, asserting that the only way the
board can reject the entire project is if
something in the tentative plan is illegal
or violates code.
After the Tuesday
meeting adjourned, Ed Wormald gave a brief
presentation to inform residents about the
aesthetics and planning project of the new
Liberty is described
as a master planned development, which
differs from spontaneous growth. The
subdivision will be constructed through more
than 10 phases over about 15 years. A new
town hall will be constructed at the center
of the development, replacing the current
town hall and meeting center.
A village center
also will be built with a post office, a
grocery store and other chain stores and
And while Ms.
Williams said the development is designed to
appeal to families without children, area
residents are still concerned with the
effect that 1,140 more homes will have on
the Fairfield school system, which consists
of a elementary, middle and high school
already at or near capacity, according to a
Fairfield school system representative.
presentation, Ed Wormald said that by using
statistics from Carroll County developers,
they determined that 571 new students would
be moving into the development. He said
comparable data from Adams County wasn't
Ms. Bittle called
these numbers "comical."
"You can't project
that there's only going to be 571 new
students that are going to be living in the
1,140 family homes," Ms. Bittle said. "The
homes are beautiful three- and four-bedroom
homes, and those aren't appealing to people
Ms. Bittle said she
didn't understand why the statistics were
based on Carroll County numbers instead of
Frederick, saying she thinks the student
population problems Fairfield will face will
be similar to problems faced in Frederick
County, which recently had to build a new
high school to accommodate a growing student
Residents also said
they are concerned about water levels in
Liberty Township, where every residence has
its own well. "The fear is this development
will come in and everyone else's well will
go dry," Ms. Bittle said.
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