Go-ahead given on water plan

Mount Airy council lets local builder begin design at his own expense


The Mount Airy Town Council has given a local builder its consent to begin designing a water supply from the South Branch of the Patapsco River - at his expense and in conjunction with a recent agreement by the town with the Maryland Department of the Environment on its water allocation.

Rob Scranton, an owner of CVI Development Group LLC of Woodstock, said he had "no luck" drilling for groundwater for wells on 120 acres of the Doubs property that lies along the river on the Carroll County side, with 26 additional acres in Howard. So he began working with a consultant to develop a surface-water supply drawn from the river.

"We recognize ... that we are responsible to provide water," said Scranton, 40, who builds primarily in Carroll. "We don't expect to ride on the taxpayers."

He plans to begin engineering studies for a surface-water supply system that he estimates could cost $14.5 million for two phases.

Under the agreement with the state, the town must secure funds for the engineering study and preliminary design of a water-treatment plant by Dec. 31, said Councilwoman Wendi Peters, who heads the water and sewer commission. She asked Scranton to outline his plan last week at a council meeting.

Scranton said the project would not involve a dam, but instead would pump water up to be impounded in a reservoir. This high ground is not in a floodplain, he said, and there would be no runoff or wetlands issues.

MDE approval needed

Plans must be approved by MDE, which is expected to allow the use of an annual average of 314,000 gallons a day in the first phase. Scranton said he expects this would cost about $7.5 million. The expected allowance is an additional 300,000 gallons a day for the second $7 million phase that includes a reservoir on 10 to 16 acres, he said.

The system would be designed to provide for a maximum of 800,000 gallons per day, he said. This would provide the town with "considerable" excess water that would be available for future residential, commercial or industrial development - and paid for by future users.

Resident Rita Misra of the 700 block of N. Main St. said the town must keep water quality as well as quantity in mind - and bring in consultants if necessary - because surface water has different problems than groundwater. Still, she said, "I'm all for having Mr. Scranton pay for it."

Peters said the idea of using surface water dates from 2001, and the plan could not only meet Scranton's projects' needs, but allow the town "to have long-term water for long-term planning."

"We are in dire straits," Peters said. "Without moving forward on surface water, we are finished."

Councilman Peter R. Helt said, "This gets privately built, 'cause we're not going to do it publicly."

`A no-brainer'

Councilman David Pyatt, an engineer and longtime councilman, said the choice seemed to be "a no-brainer."

While the council seemed to favor having the developer foot the cost, town attorney Richard R. Titus cautioned the members to express only support without official approval, because there are legal questions to resolve.

He said the land lies outside town and if it is not annexed, the town might want to take it by condemnation for public use.

Scranton, who lives near town and is renovating two Main Street properties, also is seeking annexation of the 152-acre Zeltman property on the Frederick County side of the town, which has not come up for a public hearing.

The plan has stirred some opposition among the residents of the town of about 8,500 people. That parcel could generate about 275 houses, a middle school and a municipal park, Scranton said.

In other developments:

The town engineer reported that the town hall renovation is over budget by about $460,000. Rather than vote to cover the additional sum with reserve funds or to eliminate wanted improvements, the council asked the town staff to look into other possibilities, including rebidding a contract that was supposed to total about $1.25 million.

Three council members failed to win a fourth vote to override the mayor's veto of a building-cap ordinance that had passed by a 3 to 2 vote last month. Helt then introduced an alternate measure that he and the mayor had drafted, which would set a lower cap on building permits issued in a year while encouraging development of a senior-living project, he said.

Peters asked for voluntary water-conservation measures to avoid having the town impose restrictions on outdoor use.


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