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Emmitsburg considers adding 292 acres

 Chris Patterson
Gazette Staff Reporter

Emmitsburg may be adding 292 acres to its town limits, a move that will increase the town's size by 44 percent.

The town's planning commission heard an annexation petition Monday for 10 properties on South Seton Avenue, Route 15, Keysville and Creamery roads.

The petitioners are led by Mount St. Mary's College and Mountain Manor Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, each owning properties to the southeast of Route 15.

The Mount wants its 85-plus acre property annexed so it can look into developing a biotech research facility "to enhance the science programs and educational viability" of the school, according to an Extension of Services Report prepared by the Town of Emmitsburg. A production facility is not expected on the site.

The Mount property's current agricultural zoning does not permit development of a research facility. Once annexed into the town, the town can agree to give the property the office/research zoning it needs to proceed with its plan.

While the Mount does not have an immediate need to develop its property or to obtain a connection to the town's water or sewer services, the other primary property owner does.

Mountain Manor has urgent sewer service needs due to severe septic problems now. In addition, attorney Rand Weinberg, representing the facility, told planning commissioners that the State of Maryland has offered the facility a grant to allow it to expand its services. Connection to public sewer could make that possible.

The proposed annexation will include a total of 291.7 acres. About 97 acres owned by the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's Inc. are on the west side of South Seton Avenue directly across from the National Emergency Training Center. It will not include the center.

Most of the remaining acreage will be on the south and east sides of Route 15. The petition includes 85.5 acres owned by Mount St. Mary's, and about 37 acres owned by Mountain Manor. Getty's Gas, a restaurant, a private farm and property owned by Allegheny Power are all included in the annexation petition.

The Town of Emmitsburg includes about 660 acres (about 1.1 square miles) and has a population of around 2,100, based on promotional materials produced by the town in 2001.

The annexation will expand the city's size substantially, but may not add substantially to the town's tax base. Most of the properties involved have a tax-exempt status as educational or charitable institutions.

Attorney Krista McGowan, representing the Mount, said the school and Emmitsburg Limited Partnership (Mountain Manor) would pay all of the town's costs for annexation, including legal fees, consultant fees and other costs for advertising the annexation.

It was no surprise to anyone that water and sewer availability was a concern, particularly in light of the town's recent water ban.

The petition indicates that all wells on the properties would be granted to the Town of Emmitsburg. Additionally, the petitioners would be responsible for constructing a treatment facility for the water and all lines and mains needed to support service to the area.

There was some debate at the meeting over whether the town has the sewage capacity to accommodate the annexation based on varying estimates of need developed by the town, the petitioners and the county's adviser to Emmitsburg

The town's report notes that there will be only a "limited" immediate demand for water and sewer if the annexation is approved because there is no further development planned for the bulk of the properties involved.

However, the Mountain Manor's need for public sewer will immediately increase the demand on available systems.

Town planning adviser Jim Gugel of the Frederick County Department of Planning and Zoning expressed concerns about Emmitsburg's ability to handle the potential draw on its resources.

Another possible complication is that owners of a farm on the south side of Route 15 have not formally signed the petition for annexation. Attorneys generally agreed they could remove the farm's owners from the petition without having to re-advertise the annexation, while adding them to the annexation would require they start from scratch.

Town attorney John Clapp was not as certain of their assertion as the other attorneys were and wanted to examine the issue further.

Due to the sizable amount of information presented at the meeting and the conflicting figures and estimates, planning commissioners decided to postpone consideration of the annexation until their next meeting on Monday, March 25.

Planning Commission President Ted Brennan asked the parties to come to some joint conclusions about what the drain on resources would be with the proposed annexation.

Planning commissioners are responsible for making a recommendation to the town's Board of Commissioners about whether to approve the annexation. It is the town's board that will hear testimony, public comment and make the final decision on the annexation.

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