Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

Emmitsburg Comprehensive Plan
A General Plan for Emmitsburg, Maryland

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The 1974 Comprehensive Plan for Emmitsburg
Chapter 3: Demographic Element
Chapter 4: Land Use Element
Chapter 5: Transportation Element
Chapter 6: Housing
Chapter 7: Economic Development and Renewal
Chapter 8: Community Design Element
Chapter 9: Community Facilities
Chapter 10: Environment and Sensitive Areas
Chapter 11: Implementation Strategies

Chapter 2: The 1974 Comprehensive Plan for Emmitsburg

The 1974 Comprehensive Plan for Emmitsburg represented the first effort to establish planing and zoning controls in the Town of Emmitsburg. The Plan was comprehensive in scope and included policies and recommendations concerning future physical development.

The 1974 Plan emphasized maintaining the unique character of Emmitsburg, while promoting economic growth, enhancing community appearance, providing for planned public facilities at a reasonable cost, and creating additional public and private open spaces and recreation areas.

Goals and Policies

  1. Maintain the community as a clean, attractive place to live;
  2. Improve, where indicated, the community transportation system;
  3. Provide all residential areas of the community with easily accessible recreation Facilities for all age groups;
  4. Provide for a complete community with a balance of industry, commerc and homes;
  5. Pace the growth of the community with its ability to provide services at a reasonable cost.

Land Use:

  1. High Density development will be limited to the area where it now exists, the historic residential section of the community.
  2. New commercial and industrial areas will be located on the periphery of the community.
  3. Natural features such as floodplains will be located on the periphery of the community.
  4. Development will not be allowed to place an undue burden on the ability of the Town to supply or pay for the services necessary for it.
  5. Areas of unique historic and cultural heritage will be preserved.
  6. Annexation will be based upon sound planning and economy.

Public Facilities:

  1. Public or private open space is a necessary part of residential development and its inclusion in development plans will be promoted.
  2. The local governing body will work with public and private groups to enhance the appearance of the community.
  3. The local governing body will endeavor to work towards having a complete educational package in the community as the population warrants.

Limited sewerage facilities will be based on the following priorities:

  1. Facilities needed to serve the entire community.
    1. Eliminate existing or potential health problems.
    2. Recreation areas, swimming pools and the like.
    3.  Schools, churches, philanthropic institutions.
  2. Facilities designed to improve the economic base of the community.
    1. Tourist industry.
    2. Commercial and industrial employment generators who through their plans and designs indicate their desires to complement Emmitsburg's sense of community and unique character.
  3. Residential developments
    1. Residential projects that upgrade existing structures and/or properties in keeping with the character of the community.
    2. Residential projects planned to promote diversity, good civic design, and generate a good healthful environment for its residents.
    3. Standard residential projects that adhere to the letter of regulations rather than the spirit.


  1. A major State highway by-passing the Town either north or south of the Town will not be supported by the local governing body.
  2. Flat Run Creek will not be crossed by any new Town street or extension.
  3. Where found unnecessary and hazardous, alleys will be prohibited to vehicular traffic.
  4. As vacant land develops, developers will be responsible for providing the necessary streets or parts thereof to accommodate the development of the community.


It was noted in the 1974 Plan that population projections for small communities are problematic. "The result based upon many assumptions is often taken to be gospel when in fact if the results happen to be correct, it is more by chance than wisdom." The Plan's

population projection examined a variety of factors that could influence the population size of Emmitsburg: 1) Births vs. Deaths; 2) In-migration vs. Out migration; 3) Future of St. Joseph's College (the present site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - National Training Center); 4) Water Supply; 5) Sewerage Facilities; 6) Highway Access; 7) Energy Curtailment; and 8) Employment Opportunities.

The 1974 Plan provided two population forecasts which were based upon two different assumptions. Projection No. 1 assumed a constant rate of growth based upon Emmitsburg's 1960-1970 growth rate of 12% (Trend Line Analysis). Projection No. 2 assumed that a number of projects which had then been approved by the Town would be completely developed and represent the majority of development. Neither projection accounted for future annexation areas.

The 1990 U.S. Census of Population indicated Emmitsburg's total population at 1,688 persons. This figure was below both 1990 population projections.

Table 11.1

  1980 1990
Population Projection No. 1 1,716 1,922
Population Projection No. 2 1,900 2,600

Source: Comprehensive Development Plan - Emmitsburg, MD, 1974


The 1974 Plan described the two central economic factors in the Emmitsburg area to be institutional jobs related to the colleges of Mt. Saint Mary's and St. Joseph's, and agriculture. The Plan noted that, although there were no large agricultural industries in Town, agriculture in the Region supported many businesses in Emmitsburg.


The 1974 Plan reviewed existing land uses in light of population projections and future sewerage allocation estimates for the Town. This process resulted in generalized population projections, proposed capital facility improvements and an estimate of future land use needs.

It was assumed that construction of relocated US 15 as a limited access facility on the east side of Town would move development toward the eastern part of the community.

1. Action Areas - 1974 Comprehensive Plan

The 1974 Plan called for seven "Action Areas" in and around Emmitsburg these included:

  1. Proposed Community Park extending to Tom's Creek;
  2. Proposed Shopping Center west of US 15 and north of East Main Street;
  3. Proposed Single Family and Townhouse development directly west of the proposed Shopping Center;
  4. Proposed Major Travel Center west of US 15 and north of the proposed Shopping Center;
  5. Proposed Townhouse development on Irishtown Road;
  6. Proposed Townhouse development north of West Main Street near Warthen's Way;
  7. Viking Ventures, Inc. proposed recreational resort just outside of the corporate boundaries along Annandale Road and Mountain View Road.

Of the seven "Action Areas," six were realized to some extent. The sole exception was the Viking Ventures proposed recreational resort on the west side of Emmitsburg.

2. Future Land Uses - 1974 Comprehensive Plan

The Future Land Use section of the 1974 Plan called for a "historic residential" designation along segments of Main Street and the Town Square. The area designated "historic residential" was recommended for a future historic district. Low and medium density residential land uses were recommended for other sections of town, while higher densities were discouraged due to limitations with Emmitsburg's network of roads and alleys.

The center of Emmitsburg or "downtown" was recommended for commercial land uses so that "a considerable segment of the community can have convenience buying within walking distance." Other commercial uses were to be located "on the outskirts of the existing community," in order to "discourage traffic through the Town by those who do not wish it and thereby avoid additional congestion."

It was assumed that commercial uses on the fringes of Emmitsburg would draw potential tourists into Town to see the historic and religious sites. The Plan stated that "it is important these commercial areas be well done since they, for the most part, are the 'front door' of the community."


The 1974 Plan's Community Facilities chapter reviewed the role and operation of school facilities, library facilities, protective services and solid waste management for Emmitsburg. Park and recreation uses, as well as the provision of community open space were not addressed in the Community facilities chapter, but were included in a separate Community Environment chapter of the 1974 Plan.

With the expected opening of the current Emmitsburg Elementary School, all public school facilities were projected to be below capacity through 1990. It was also noted the hours of operation for the Library were 27 hours per week and that effective Solid Waste Management remained an issue in Emmitsburg. No specific recommendations were made in these areas.


The 1974 Plan recommended a variety of transportation improvements primarily consisting of several new road connections in the Emmitsburg area to improve traffic circulation in and around the Town. The Plan noted that public transportation was not yet feasible due to lack of population. The adopted specific road improvement recommendations were as follows:

  1. A 60 ft. street between MD 97/East Main Street (present MD 140) and US
  2. 1 5/North Seton Avenue. (This is the approximate alignment of Silo Hill Road.)
  3. North Collector: Business 1 5/North Seton Avenue to MD 97/West Main Street. (This alignment approximates proposed Brookfield Drive.)
  4. South Collector: Southern Business 1 5/South Seton Avenue to Annandale Drive. (This alignment would have crossed the current Community Park using Cedar Avenue. This alignment was never constructed.)
  5. Annandale Road to MD 97/West Main Street. (This alignment was never constructed.)
  6. Realign Irishtown Road to eliminate major traffic hazards.
  7. Upgrade South Alley (current Lincoln Avenue) to serve as an alternative alignment for truck traffic in the eastern part of Town.
  8. Upgrade Creamery Road to handle any substantial increase in traffic.

The Plan also recommended that no street cross Flat Run Creek because of problems with drainage, erosion, cost of bridges and continuity of a future linear park along the Flat Run Creek corridor.


The Community Environment chapter of the 1974 Plan effectively linked both parkland and open space within Emmitsburg as integrally related elements that help shape the overall environment of the community. This chapter examined the significance of predominantly undeveloped land within the Town both for park resources, but also for the invaluable contribution that "open space" gives to the overall character of Emmitsburg.

The 1974 Plan characterized the overall value of "open space" in the following manner:

"The benefits gained from open space are almost limitless, and many are interrelated and interdependent. Open space provides land for playgrounds, play fields, picnic areas, and other active pursuits. It can be enjoyably looked at and can also promote a feeling of privacy and spaciousness. Open space, if heavily forested, can provide cool air, buffer noises, act as an air purifier, and absorb carbon dioxide while providing more oxygen. Retention of rainfall run-off and providing areas for water storage or recharge are other possible functions of open space."

The 1974 Plan borrowed the Open Space Concept from the Frederick County Parks and Open Space Plan of 1970, which is described as follows:

Open space is any area, permanently designated and preserved in a predominantly undeveloped and natural state for a) the protection of natural resources, b) scenic, historic and natural beauty purposes, c) outdoor recreation activities (parks), d) the prevention of erosion, pollution and situation and for e) the protection of areas where high density development would be harmful to the public good.

The 1974 Plan adopted the following Park Quality Standards or design criteria which were to be used in the development of park facilities in Emmitsburg:

  1. Any development should enhance the beauty of nature and be of good professional design. Natural materials such as wood and stone should be used in construction whenever possible.
  2. Construction should be of high quality and built to last. The design and method of construction of park facilities can reduce maintenance costs and prolong the beauty and usefulness of buildings.
  3. Landscaping is important in all types of recreation areas. The use of plant materials can help produce a desirable environment for recreation.
  4. Whenever possible, facilities should be built in the public view or be well policed so as to prevent damage from vandalism.

The 1974 Plan adopted a set of guidance standards that were designed to secure a suitable conservation of resources during the process of development of a particular tract of land. The adopted guidance standards were not included in either the 1977 Emmitsburg Zoning Ordinance or the 1992 Emmitsburg Subdivision Regulations. This was unfortunate, since the guidance standards were never implemented in subsequent development projects in Emmitsburg as they were intended.

The 1974 Plan included the following Emmitsburg open space/recreational areas:

Table 11.2

  Lot Area Recreation Area
Emmitsburg Elementary School 6.6 acres 3 acres
Emmitsburg Baseball Park 6.7 acres 6 acres
Catholic High School    
Sisters Convent, Parish Hall and Cemetery 1.86 acres 0.35 acres
Mother Seton Elementary School 15 acres 12 acres
Emmitsburg Community Park 59 acres 59 acres


89.16 acres 80.35 acres

Table 11.3

Area Description


Methods of Control

Natural Resource Areas Those areas where water, soil, vegetative cover and geologic resources warrant preservation. Appropriate protection should be afforded those indispensable natural resources that constitute valuable open space. Zoning, Special Regulations, Easement
Historic Building Sites Land on which a designated historic structure, or facility is situation or is to be reconstructed and preserved. Appropriate protection of the site or area should be effected in accord with the nature of the facility or plans for complementary open space use. Lease, Special Regulations, Easement, Fee Acquisition, Covenant, Historic Zoning
Historic Event Area A site or area designated as the location an historic event, activity or former structure. Appropriate protection of suitable site or area should be effected in accord with the nature of the event or plans for complementary open space use. Lease, Special Regulation, Easement, Fee Acquisition, Covenant, Historic Zoning
Vantage Point A location affording a unique or significant view of a scenic area. Public access and accommodation should be provided whenever possible. Lease, Covenant, ROW Easement, Fee Simple Acquisition
Floodplains, Marsh, Excessive Slope Areas Those areas where development would be harmful to the public good. The Natural Physical Characteristics Study recommends retaining these areas in an undeveloped state and should therefore serve as open space. Special Regulation, Easement, Zoning
Development Buffer and Separator Areas Areas which separate and divide incompatible development types. Designation of areas that will provide appropriate protection, separation and buffering between development types. Special Regulation, Lease, Covenant, Easement

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The 1974 Comprehensive Plan for Emmitsburg
Chapter 3: Demographic Element
Chapter 4: Land Use Element
Chapter 5: Transportation Element
Chapter 6: Housing
Chapter 7: Economic Development and Renewal
Chapter 8: Community Design Element
Chapter 9: Community Facilities
Chapter 10: Environment and Sensitive Areas
Chapter 11: Implementation Strategies