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Residents: A bigger Boonsboro not better

December 19, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

BOONSBORO - Residents concerned about traffic congestion, school overcrowding, water capacity and even cemetery space told Boonsboro town officials they are worried about development in areas proposed for annexation.

"We've always been proud of the small-town feel, and we don't always feel bigger is better," said Charleen Jones, one of more than a dozen people who addressed the Boonsboro Town Council during a public hearing on six annexations Monday.

About 300 people crowded into Boonsboro Middle School's auditorium. Every seat was taken, and people stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the back wall. Outside, vehicles jammed the school campus parking lots and lawns.

At the hearing, residents and town officials discussed six annexations totaling about 813 acres. The town currently covers 982 acres, Town Planner Derek Meyers has told The Herald-Mail.

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Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman said the council will try to meet sometime before the end of the year to vote on the properties.

"For us to control the growth, we have to ... I'm not saying we have to, we should annex them in, so we can phase in the growth ..." Kauffman told Jones, who asked whether the town would be better able to handle growth than the county.

Meyers said the town is considering the annexations before Jan. 1 because a new law that takes effect in 2007 will give the county more control over annexations.

Some residents said they believe town officials are rushing the process.

"I think you're rushing into something here, take a little time," Bernard Moser said.

If the land is annexed, Councilman Kevin Chambers told residents, developers - not the taxpayers - would fund a new wastewater treatment plant mandated by the state.

Tapping fees are $6,500 for water services and $11,000 for sewer services, Chambers said.

The town has only 1,640 new taps to allocate, and no new homes could be built until the new wastewater treatment plant is finished, Kauffman said.

Appearing frustrated at times throughout the meeting, Kauffman explained that he would like Boonsboro to remain a small town, but he realizes development is coming.

Building all of the homes could take 10 to 15 years, Kauffman estimated.

The developers could ease taxpayers' burden, Kauffman said.

"Let us know how you feel about it: Do you want to pay for it, or do you want the developers to pay?" Kauffman asked at the end of the meeting.

Jason Divelbliss, who represents one of the owners of a property being considered for annexation, said the property owner is willing to work with town, county and school officials to make sure infrastructure needs are meet.

While a few residents voiced some support for the annexations, most speakers raised concerns that properties would bring unwanted development.

"Actually, as these developers make themselves richer, they're taking you folks for a ride," said Wallace M. Yater, who warned about crime.

Doug Turner said he could understand officials' contention that annexation would allow the town to better control growth.

"The growth is coming, and I'd rather you all handle this instead of the county," Turner said.

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