Townhouse project appears on hold in Smithsburg

December 29, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

Several months after a county landowner initiated informal talks with the Smithsburg Town Council about an annexation proposal, the idea has been shelved.

The landowner's attorney said he is unclear whether the annexation or possible development of townhouses on the property will be pursued in 2004, but believes the woman still is interested in the prospects.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said last week that Cave Hill Road resident Martha Fleming and her representatives have not responded to a letter from the council stating she would need to make a formal, written request for the town to consider annexing her property. Myers has said the council would consider it if a document outlining the expenses for which each party would be responsible was submitted.


"We're awaiting a formal request, so I don't know where it is going," Myers said.

Fleming, real estate broker Barbara Axline and attorney William Wantz asked the council at an Aug. 26 work session to consider annexing 4.42 acres of land, currently under county jurisdiction, on Cave Hill Road, Myers said. The three expressed an interest in building 50 townhouses in the area, she said.

Wantz said he has not been in contact with Fleming recently, but believes the development idea may be pursued in 2004.

"I think there's a continuing interest in annexing the property, but I have had no involvement in it in recent months," Wantz said.

Fleming said she put requests for annexation "on hold" due to family business and a busy holiday schedule. She declined to comment on whether she will pursue the annexation or development on the property next year.

On Sept. 2, councilmen Jerome Martin and Ralph Regan spoke out against the possible development. Martin said additional townhouses in Smithsburg likely would translate into a rise in crime, and increased demands on school and municipal resources.

Martin also said the creation of the Whispering Hills development has brought the town "nothing but problems."

However, Myers said last week that current town leaders were not completely against the idea of future annexation, including the property on Cave Hill Road. She said the town would have to carefully weigh pros and cons of the potential development that likely would come with the move, especially because Smithsburg is the fastest-growing municipality in the county.

"We do have to be careful," she said. "One thing I'll work hard against is upping our citizens' water and sewer rates."

Myers said several parties have made informal inquiries about having their land annexed for development this year.

Myers said the town will be much better prepared to deal with the issues related to annexation because of problems that arose during and after the building of the Whispering Hills development. She said there have been problems with storm water management/drainage and communication with the developers.

"The town was small when that was annexed in," Myers said. "It was the fault of no one, it's just a learning experience."

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