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Emmitsburg Town News

Emily Salmon


Mother Seton expansion still on hold

Construction workers cannot move even an anthill at the Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg, despite the September 2000 groundbreaking for a new addition, until the site plans are approved by the Emmitsburg Planning Commission.

Representatives for the school expressed frustration at the delay during the commission's meeting Monday night. Mother Seton Principal Sister Mary Catherine Conway said that two weeks ago, "after we were pretty sure we were set," she received a letter from the town saying the site plans were still incomplete.

"How long are we going to keep playing this game of back and forth?" Conway asked the commission. Conway said too many expensive changes could jeopardize the addition.

The town and Frederick County have a total of 20 recommendations to the site plans that it has addressed to the school in previous letters.

Two major sticking points are the town's request for acceleration and deceleration lanes at the school's entrance on Creamery Road and a fence around a bio-retention pond that would hold less than a foot of water.

The principal civil engineer hired by Mother Seton, Fred Thompson of Gower Thompson in Baltimore, said the bio-retention facility was a pond designed to absorb water, not hold it, and a fence would not be necessary.

The town's Feb. 9 response with recommendations was reasonable, said Town Manager David Haller, since the town had not received the site plans until November.

Haller agreed that the fence was not necessary, and Frederick County Principal Planner James Gugel did not see the necessity for the lanes, given the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Commissioner James Hoover, however, said the commission wanted both the fencing and the acceleration and deceleration lanes for the children's safety.

Another issue was the school's participation in widening Lincoln Avenue, a long-term goal for the town that Hoover said would cost at least $200,000. He said Tuesday that one of the town's recommendations was the school's dedication of a certain footage of its property along Lincoln Avenue to the town.

About five years ago, the school offered to give the town footage along the street in return for certain services from the town, said Sister Cora Anne Signato of the Sisters of Charity, which owns the school's property. She said the town never accepted the offer.

The services, Hoover said Tuesday, included replacing a fence, covering a playground with blacktop, extending drainage pipes and moving trees.

At the meeting, Haller commented, "It was certainly not much of a gift; it was pretty expensive." Haller said he would arrange to meet during the week with the town plan reviewer, Jeff Fitzgerald, and with Thompson to try to iron out the differences between the two parties.

At the suggestion of Ted Brennan, the planning commission chair, commissioners waived the time period required for receiving the plans, saying they would consider the plans at the March 26 meeting if they were received at least two weeks beforehand. The commission usually requires that members receive site plans at least 30 days before the meeting at which the plans will be considered.

Interfaith suggests new single-family development in Silo Hill

Only two months after receiving a gift of land in Silo Hill, representatives of Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland are proposing to build a single-family housing development in the Emmitsburg subdivision.

The Ausherman family of Frederick donated the 6.5-acre site to the organization in December. Originally, while the land was owned by the county's famous construction family, the Frederick civil engineering firm Fox & Associates had designed preliminary plans for a townhouse development on the property.

Now, Interfaith would like to replace the plan for 43 townhouses with 27 single-family houses. Jonathan Soule, of Fox & Associates, unveiled the plan for the development at the Monday meeting of the Emmitsburg Planning Commission.

The design calls for houses with a "zero lot line." Each house would sit with one side aligned with the lot line. Soule said the arrangement would provide more open green space for the development.

A text amendment to the town code would be required for the proposal to be considered. Kay Schultz, director of self-help housing at Interfaith, said at the meeting that single-family homes were better suited for self-help housing, where families help build their homes in return for a reduction in costs.

She also said that the design would reduce sewer and water costs. Addressing Commissioner James Hoover's concerns that approving a text amendment would set a precedent for future developments, Schultz responded, "It gives another option. It doesn't mean it's the only thing or the best solution for every property."

Silo Hill resident Michelle Metz was concerned about the number of houses closely spaced together. "Why does there have to be so many?" she asked. "I can't foresee 27 homes going there."

Soule responded that the actual density of units per acre would be about the same as in the current neighborhood. When contacted Tuesday, Schultz said Interfaith planned to proceed with a formal request for a text amendment.