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County backs taking of land Annexation by town would let developer add to water supply


Annexing 157 acres of undeveloped land just a cornfield north of Manchester's town limits is a "win-win-win" situation for the county, developer Martin K. P. Hill and the town, says Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr.

Lippy made the remarks yesterday after the county commissioners voted 3-0 to sign a joint petition with the developer, his partnerships and property owner James Martin, asking the town to annex a half-dozen parcels. The parcels are being called Black Farm, but three are owned by Hill, Black Farm's owner.

If the town approves the annexation, the residentially zoned acreage would come within town limits. The properties are mostly east of Route 30 and south of Lineboro Road near Fridinger Mill Road. Martin's parcel is west of Route 30.

The county purchased its 20-acre parcel in 1989, earmarking it as the future site of Ebb Valley Elementary School. Manchester's only elementary school was at or near capacity then, and projected population growth made the purchase logical and popular.

But population projections have fallen short and the school board has placed the Ebb Valley project far down on its 10-year priority list, said Jeanne Joiner, a county planner.

From Lippy's perspective, Hill's Black Farm property might be more valuable for its water, always a top priority of the mayor.

"We have not seen results of test drillings [at Black Farm], but we have heard that [projected water supply] is very good," Lippy said.

A short supply of drinkable water is an omnipresent concern in Manchester, where springs provide much of the drinking water. Good wells are costly to drill and difficult to find.

In 1995, state and federal environmental officials threatened to force Manchester to pay for new wells or risk being ordered to stop tapping three springs that have supplied more than 50 percent of the town's water since 1933.

Finding water, buying the land, drilling and tapping wells is a constant economic struggle for Manchester, population 3,000.

If the Town Council accepts yesterday's joint petition to annex Black Farm and the adjoining parcels, it could require the developer to provide 500 gallons of new water per unit a day and pay to link to public water and sewer utilities, said Miriam DePalmer, a zoning specialist for Manchester.

The county, unwilling to build a school supported by wells and septic systems, would benefit from public water and sewer, she said.

Lippy called himself "neutral" on the issue but said he hoped the Town Council would annex Black Farm and the adjoining parcels.

"Marty Hill is looking for a [business] profit, but that's OK, since he is one of the top contributors to charities," Lippy said. "We could always hope that the town will be Marty's favorite charity."

However, the mayor said his support for annexation depends on the test-drilling reports for Black Farm proving to be accurate.

Phillip L. Arbaugh, Manchester's town manager, agreed.

"You can't drink the water until it's a reality," he said.

Arbaugh said the chief argument against annexation would be added congestion on already snarled Route 30.

"Who knows where and when a planned bypass will become a reality?" the town manager asked rhetorically.

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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