James Rada, Jr.
The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners will hold a workshop to try and decide how best to handle a request from Pradeep Saini, owner of Village Liquors, to change the town’s water and sewer tap costs.
Saini owns three acres by the Emmitsburg McDonalds, with an option to purchase four more acres. He has been developing a small strip mall on the site where he intends to move his business, but he told the board of commissioners he would like to build a 90-room Choice Hotel on the site as well. The proposed project will cost between $7 and $8 million, of which 10 percent will pay for the town’s water and sewer impact fees.
“When 10 percent of that is just water and sewer tap fees, it’s humungous, and investors are going to shy away from that,” Saini told the commissioners.
He said the town’s costs are out of line with other municipalities. For instance, he said, a similar project in Brunswick would only cost $172,000 in water and sewer tap fees, and he could get a 30 percent discount off that figure.
He also told the commissioners that they needed to pay attention to the ripple effect the hotel would have on town businesses since people staying at the hotel would most likely eat and spend money in town.
“A successful hotel is going to open doors for other development,” Saini said.
He asked the commissioners to look at the current costs, compare them to other municipalities, and bring them in line with other towns. He also asked the commissioners to consider a one-time waiver for a project of this size.
Board President Cliff Sweeney showed a great reluctance to reducing the fees. “The water tap fees that we get from you to pay for the water to pay for the treatment center that’s what the tap fees are for,” Sweeney said.
He said that the town was being asked to give away $800,000 – or a portion of it – when the hotel project would bring the town much closer to needing a new treatment plant that would cost around $2 million.
Commissioner Tim O’Donnell said, “The opportunity here is wonderful. We do want to support you. We do want to see you guys get this done, but there’s also an economy we do have to deal with as well.”
It was pointed out that comparing Emmitsburg’s rates to Brunswick’s was not quite appropriate. The developer in Brunswick gave Brunswick $20 million for improvements. Also, the town’s water capacity was far more than Emmitsburg’s.
Town Manager Cathy Willetts told the commissioners that based on town staff’s research, Emmitsburg’s rates were about midway between comparable municipalities.
The commissioners decided to hold a workshop to discuss all of the issues surrounding the tap fees, in general, and whether something could be done to incentivize the hotel project.