Taneytown considering annexing farm for future development

Taneytown considering annexing farm for future development
Councilman Joe Vigliotti (left) stands by as Nina Smeak, a longtime Taneytown Police Department administrative assistant, accepts a plaque from Mayor James McCarron. Taneytown's Mayor and council gathered for the first time since June for a workshop meeting Wednesday, Aug. 8. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

Taneytown’s Mayor and City Council are considering annexing a Christmas tree farm into town limits to be considered for future development.

Jim Wieprecht, acting city manager, briefed the elected officials at their monthly workshop meeting Wednesday, Aug. 8 — their first meeting since June 6 — about an annexation proposal by the Sewell family, who own a Christmas tree farm just north of city limits. The council also discussed a leaky public works building roof and an amendment to the city charter Wednesday night.


The Taneytown Planning Commission met in June and voted — although not unanimously — to recommend that the mayor and council direct the city to continue talks regarding the potential annexation of the farm, said Wieprecht, also the city’s planning and zoning director.

“They liked the idea of an age-restricted development, preferably something having a variety of housing types and a continuing care and assisted living component, as well,” he said.

The Sewells own a 125-acre parcel, Wieprecht said, though it’s unlikely that the city could annex it in its entirety.

The annexation proposal, which is in early stages, won’t be ready for a council vote for at least three months, he added.

Mayor and council members did not vote on any items Wednesday, rather they discussed topics in preparation for a council meeting Monday, Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m., where they will vote on agenda items. Officials will vote on a recommendation — whether to move forward with annexation discussions — Monday night.

“I’d rather not go forward with another annexation… while we have so many units being built,” Councilman Donald Frazier said. “I’m not sure the time is correct for the [city].”

Mayor James McCarron cited in his rebuttal another development project in town that’s still eight or 10 years from completion.

“It’s a completely different kind of project than the Sewells are proposing,” he said. “The idea of holding up any future developments another eight or 10 years really doesn’t make much sense.”

The mayor suggested that the council recommend the planning commission and city staff allow the Sewells to continue to pursue annexation.

“You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines,” McCarron said. “We can shut the door anywhere down the line, but to shut the door at this point I think is counterproductive.”

Councilman Bradley Wantz agreed with the mayor, adding that the city should exercise extreme caution in reviewing the proposal. Councilwoman Diane Foster echoed Wantz’s remarks, saying she thinks that Taneytown should move forward with the process.

Just one bid

Citing the monthly report of Kevin Smeak, the city’s public works director, Wieprecht told the mayor and council about a leaky roof at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Blower Building.

“The insulation is getting saturated and we’re getting water in the building, so we obviously need to fix that,” Wieprecht said.

Smeak included one quote for the flat-roof repair. Donald B. Smith Roofing, Inc. from Hanover, Pennsylvania, has done other flat-roof work for Taneytown and the city has been happy with it, Wieprecht said. If the city elects to employ Smith’s services it will have to pay $22,700 — that’s over the limit that a city manager can authorize, so Wieprecht needs the council’s approval.


McCarron wasn’t satisfied with one bid for the repair job. He cited a recent roof repair at his home, and a large disparity in prices among various companies, McCarron said, suggesting the council wait 30 days and have public works staff solicit two or three more quotes.

“It bothers me from the standpoint that the last half a dozen bids or so, have been one bid,” the mayor said. “We need to get away from that, we need to make sure that we get multiple bids to assure that we’re giving the citizens the best bang for their buck.”

Councilwoman Foster urged the council to be more urgent, “given that it rains all the time.”

“The longer this roof is leaking the more chance of there being rotted sheathing, which will then cost us more money,” Wantz said. “Do we take that risk of having to spend more because we want to see more quotes, or do we just go with who has been good to us and fix what could potentially damage equipment that is under this roof.”

But McCarron did not waver on his stance.

“Somebody needs to get on the phone and call half a dozen contractors and say ‘I need a quote next week on this roof,’” he said.

Wieprecht said he’d try to act swiftly to have options before Monday’s council meeting. But the item could be before council for a vote Monday, regardless.

Taming the flames

Lawmakers will also have to address the city’s open burning ordinance, though they won’t vote on it until next month.

“We’ve had a handful of issues with individuals getting a little carried away with either campfires or that have been burning trash or recyclable items instead of items that don’t produce a lot of smoke,” Wieprecht told the council.

Taneytown’s law essentially requires residents to get permits from the city for anything to be burned outside, Wieprecht said. That could be interpreted to include barbecues, chimineas, fire pits and more, he added.

“Obviously we really don’t want to take that stance,” he said. “But from an enforcement standpoint, it makes it difficult to enforce the code because the violation would be burning outdoors without a permit, so basically we don’t want to have to tell folks they can’t have” grills and responsible, contained outdoor fires.

Wieprecht wants the council to amend the charter to make clear what is and what is not allowed in regards to outdoor flames.

“We want to stop people from burning trash and we want to stop people from building big bonfires that produce a lot of ash that gets all over the neighbors property,” he explained.

Wieprecht, his staff and Jay Gullo Jr., the city attorney, are drafting revisions and will present them to council in September, he said.

37 years of experience

McCarron opened the proceedings Wednesday by presenting a plaque to a retiring police administrative assistant, recognizing her contributions to the city. Nina Smeak has decided to retire after 37 years working for the city.

McCarron invited Councilman Joe Vigliotti, the police liaison, to read a statement from Taneytown Police Chief Bill Tyler, who was unable to attend because of a family emergency, Vigliotti said.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much you meant to me during your time as my administrative assistant,” Vigliotti, reading Tyler’s statement, said of Smeak. “I remember many times you were a listener, a mom, and always had time for all your officers.


“This plaque you are receiving, I hope every time you look at [it] you will know just how much you meant to all of us, especially to me.”