Housing plans stalled by insufficient sewer capacity Union Bridge council reluctant to issue bonds to pay for upgraded system

August 12, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Union Bridge's first proposed subdivision since World War II might be stalled because the town lacks the sewer capacity to accommodate the new houses.

The problem surfaced yesterday during a meeting of the town planning commission and developer Martin K. P. Hill.

Commission Chairman James L. Schumacher reported that Union Bridge has enough sewer capacity to serve 50 additional houses, less than one-third of the 184 units Hill plans in the first phase of the subdivision and less than one-sixth of the eventual total.

Because of the sewer problem and because two of the five commission members were absent, the panel deferred final concept approval of Jackson Ridge, a development of single-family houses, townhouses and apartments that would double the population of the northwest Carroll County town of 1,000.

Town officials are torn between their desire for the subdivision -- they hope it will stimulate the local economy -- and the town's lack of money to finance an expansion of the sewage treatment plant.

The town adopted a master plan in 1997 calling for eventual expansion of the treatment plant capacity from 250,000 to 600,000 gallons a day.

The problem is how to pay for it, Schumacher said.

"Frankly, the town has no savings for a wastewater treatment plant," he said.

Town attorney John T. Maguire II asked if Hill could pay for the subdivision's planned sewer connections in advance.

"No," the developer said firmly. "We don't have the deepest pockets around. We can't just keep laying out money.

"As a developer, I don't believe you can ask us to pay for more than our proportionate share," Hill said.

"Sure we can," said commission member Joseph H. Kreimer. Expansion of the treatment plant is necessitated by the planned houses, he said.

"As of now, that plant works. It can sit there," Kreimer said.

Hill suggested that the town would gain additional capacity if it fixed the aged, leaky sewer mains that allow water to enter the system. He advised the town to issue bonds to gain the needed cash for expansion of the plant.

The Town Council is reluctant to issue bonds, Schumacher said. "We're afraid to build the plant and have the houses to pay for it not come on line," he said.

Jackson Ridge, to be built on 120 acres along the north side of Route 75, also faces water restrictions imposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment. MDE reduced the subdivision to 184 units from the 317 originally planned after conducting water well tests in 1997.

MDE said the well could supply enough water to serve 184 units. But town government asked Hill to submit a plan for 317 units anyway, with a promise of town support if he appeals the water restriction.

The property is owned by Towson dentist G. Jackson Phillips, who has planned to develop it for at least five years.

Phillips initially planned to build a subdivision with straight streets and tree-lined sidewalks, following a design trend called "new urbanism" that attempts to create housing that resembles an extension of the original town.

Union Bridge officials approved a concept plan in 1996 for a village subdivision designed by new urbanism town planner David S. Thaler of Baltimore.

But Hill, selected as the developer by Phillips later that year, submitted a different concept plan. He proposed a more typical Carroll County subdivision, with a main street bordered by culs de sac and common driveways leading to houses.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.