Emmitsburg lures young buyers Prices are lower, commutes longer

August 11, 1991|By Greg Tasker

EMMITSBURG -- When Don and Kris Boller started looking for a home in metropolitan Washington, where Mr. Boller works as a draftsman, they were stymied by the hefty price tags.

"It was just too expensive," Mr. Boller said of the Washington market. "It was worse than Montgomery County -- town houses between $200,000 and $300,000. And we didn't really want to live in the city."

So the couple made a trade-off common to many young professionals: buying a less expensive house in Frederick County and becoming reconciled to a long commute.

Mr. Boller, 26, commutes an hour from the couple's duplex in the Silo Hill development to Fairfax, Va. The trip home sometimes takes two or three hours. His 23-year-old wife works as a purchasing agent in Frederick, about 20 minutes away.

"It's the price you pay," he said.

Like the Bollers, many young professionals are moving to this quaint, yet fast-growing community. As a mix of proposed residential development moves from the drawing board to construction over the next few years, the population of Emmitsburg is expected to double.

On tap are single-family homes, duplexes and town houses that will boost the number of residents to about 3,600, said Carroll "Duke" Martin, the town's director of public works.

"We're talking about a total of 600 units," Mr. Martin said. "We're going to have a nice mix -- something for everyone from the first-time homebuyer to those looking for second, larger homes on scenic lots."

Already under various phases of development are Silo Hill, featuring duplexes beginning in the low $90,000s; Emmit Ridge, two- and three-bedroom town houses from the mid-$70,000s; and Northgate, a mix of duplexes and single-family homes by a variety of builders.

W. F. Delauter, president of W. F. Delauter and Son, a Thurmont-based builder and contractor, plans to build or sell lots for 72 duplexes and single-family homes in Northgate. Prices for the duplexes begin in the $90,000s, and single-family homes start at about $120,000.

"It's one of the few towns around with a modern sewer system," he said. "I can see more development down the road."

Slated to begin construction this summer is Lincoln on the Park, LTC a 32-unit apartment complex for the elderly and the handicapped. The units will be built on five acres near a 58-acre community park, currently under development.

Proposed are Brookfield, a development of 145 single-family homes on 73 acres, and Pembroke, 97 single-family homes on 47 acres. Both developments, which have received the town's preliminary approval, will be situated north of Route 140 at Emmitsburg's western end.

The building boom in this 1-square-mile community, nestled at the foot of the Catoctin Mountains, began in the late 1980s when the town's expanded and modernized wastewater treatment system came on line.

The first duplex at Silo Hill, situated at the eastern end of town at Routes 140 and 15, went up in August 1989. Sales since then have been brisk, and 32 units have been built, said sales agent Shirley Derrenbacher.

When completed Silo Hill, built by Ausherman Construction Co. of Frederick, will contain 80 duplexes. There are four styles, all with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths, and optional features such as decks, carports and garages. Silo Hill also has 56 town houses, a strip shopping center and a 6-acre park.

Phase II of Emmit Ridge will consist of 107 town homes on 16.6 acres, off Irishtown Road, north of Route 140.

"There's something for everyone here," Ms. Derrenbacher said. "There's a sense of community. And the town has done a great job of restoring Main Street. It's just a real nice place to be."

Main Street's Victorian-style street lights have become a fixture in Silo Hill, Emmit Ridge and Northgate, and will be required in the other developments as well. In addition, the town requires developers to build sidewalks and to leave 10 percent of a development for open space.

Community amenities include the 58-acre park, which features a swimming pool, athletic fields and will eventually contain a five-acre lake and nature trails.

While other developers have reported brisk sales, Liz Sponseller, vice president in charge of sales and marketing for Sponseller MJ Inc., has found the Emmitsburg market to be slow.

The Frederick-based firm has built five Colonial-style duplexes with a base price of $69,000 in Northgate. Plans are to sell just three more.

"I haven't found the market there anything to write home about," Ms. Sponseller said. "It's a cute little town, there's no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Emmitsburg officials think the town is cute, too, and welcome the development, even at a casual pace.

"We're one of the oldest towns in Frederick," Mr. Martin said. "We want people to know we're here and have something to offer. But we don't want developers to come in and build 100 or 200 homes a year."

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