Residents living in and around New Market are concerned that a proposal to annex almost 400 acres into the town could lead to increased traffic, higher taxes and unchecked development.
In the face of such concerns, the New Market Town Council Wednesday night decided to take more time developing the annexation proposal and agreement.
The agreement is a contract between the town and the property owner that stipulates the terms and conditions of the annexation, including what can be built on the site.
Under the annexation proposal introduced by the five-member council on Aug. 10, two properties would become part of New Market.
If approved, they would nearly double the town’s size and could dramatically increase the town’s tax base, budget and the number of people living within its borders.
The current proposal would expand the municipality’s limits to include about 396 acres, an action that town officials expect will increase economic growth.
Currently, more than 650 people live within the 490-square-acre town, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
“We have a chance to be forward looking or not so forward looking,” New Market Mayor Winslow Burhans III said. “So the challenge if we decide to be forward looking is how do we put the pieces of the puzzle together so that it makes sense for us.”
The council meeting Wednesday was the second that town officials have held in the last three weeks about the proposed annexations. About 50 people attended a public hearing on Jan. 7.
Under consideration is a 134-acre plot on the northeastern border of the town, known as the Delaplaine property, whose owners asked to be annexed under New Market’s “economic flex zoning” classification approved by the council in September.
The classification allows newly-annexed properties to be used for commercial, office, technology, retail, service and other job and development-generating uses.
Also under consideration is the annexation of the Smith/Cline property, a 262-acre farm on the northwestern boundary of the town.
Its owners have asked that the farm be approved for a medium-density residential zoning classification that would allow the construction of a 925-home subdivision called Hazelnut Run.
A road bypass extending Mussetter Road to Md. 75 is also planned to be built on the property. Town officials anticipate that the developers will pay for the building of the bypass, which is estimated would cost $14.5 million.
Rick Fleshman, owner of Fleshman’s Antiques at 2 W. Main St., said during Wednesday’s meeting that he is concerned about the pace of the bypass construction and how increased traffic from construction of the subdivision could affect business on Main Street.
“To build 900 homes or 400 homes or 300 homes and have all the commercial traffic come down Main Street ... to do the development is a huge unforeseen impact that’s going to affect my business. That’s going to add much more traffic than there is now,” he said. “And it’s going to be very heavy traffic.... The road needs to be built first.”
Town attorney William Wantz said that comments from the public hearing fell into several categories, including those about the benefit of the annexations to the town, the zoning classification, the planned bypass and the density of development.
“If you really analyzed the comments [from the public hearing], residents aren’t dead set against [the annexation]; they just want us to be thoughtful about it,” Councilman David Price said.
On Jan. 10, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners granted express zoning authority to New Market to allow development on the two properties, which were previously zoned agricultural.
On the same day, the New Market Planning Commission also recommended approval of the annexations to the town council.
In the past, town officials have expressed concerns about not being able to take advantage of property tax revenue from the annexation sites if the county allows them to be developed.
“We could end up, of course, as some people have expressed, with the burden of the development of those properties and none of the benefits,” Wantz said.
The town would benefit from taxes associated from the two properties if they are annexed.
The Hazelnut Run subdivision alone is expected to increase the town’s assessable tax base by $323.8 million, more than double it’s current base, according to a fiscal impact study on the Smith/Cline property.
New Market officials said Wednesday that the town’s attorney would draft an annexation agreement that the council would consider during next month’s meeting, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 14. A public hearing is expected to be scheduled after the meeting.