R.S. to lift build­ing ban

Town could see fu­ture growth

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— A build­ing mora­to­rium put in place more than 10 years ago is set to be lifted, but town of­fi­cials don’t ex­pect a hous­ing boom.

When the town im­posed the mora­to­rium, Ris­ing Sun had un­pro­duc­tive wells and a waste­water treat­ment plant that the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment had deemed ob­so­lete. This left the town without the in­fras­truc­ture needed for the more than 700 homes devel­op­ers hoped to build back in 2006.

Now with the or­bal ditch waste­water treat­ment plant on­line and a sur­face wa­ter sup­ply in the works from Ch­ester Wa­ter Au­thor­ity, Ris­ing Sun is poised to lift that mora­to­rium.

But with the in­fras­truc­ture now in place, it re­mains to be seen whether devel­op­ers will still be in­ter­ested in the longstalled projects.

“We are see­ing a light at the end of the tun­nel with new busi­ness com­ing into town,” Calvin Bo­nen­berger, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said re­cently. “Af­ter 11 years of chok­ing on this wa­ter and sewer is­sue.”

The sewer plant was built with fu­ture de­vel­op­ment in mind, mak­ing it so devel­op­ers would pay the freight for

RIS­ING SUN

ex­pand­ing the ca­pac­ity as needed.

Mean­while, the wa­ter sys­tem ad­dresses cur­rent needs and also po­si­tions Ris­ing Sun to be­come a wa­ter bro­ker, sell­ing up to a mil­lion gal­lons per day to other cus­tomers out­side town lim­its.

Bo­nen­berger said he gets calls every week from com­pa­nies look­ing to lo­cate in Ris­ing Sun. Many ad­join­ing prop­erty own­ers are also con­sid­er­ing an­nex­a­tion be­cause Ris­ing Sun has solved its wa­ter and sewer is­sues, mak­ing growth pos­si­ble.

“The thing that’s re­ally neat about Ris­ing Sun is it’s not just solv­ing the is­sues to solve the is­sues,” Bo­nen­berger said. “They are putting the town in the po­si­tion to be able to cap­i­tal­ize on it.”

The Knut­sen farm off Biggs High­way, the Reynolds farm off Queen Street be­hind Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle School, the fi­nal phase of Maple Heights off East Main Street, and Stephen’s Pre­serve off Route 1 were among the projects put on hold when the mora­to­rium went into ef­fect. The de­vel­oper of a large project on Red Pump Road — known as Frap­ple — filed a $90 mil­lion law­suit against Ris­ing Sun be­cause of the town’s slow progress on solv­ing its wa­ter and sewer is­sues. The 2010 suit came at the same time that MDE filed a con­sent de­cree de­mand­ing the town re­place its ag­ing la­goon.

A judge even­tu­ally dis­missed all but one of the counts in the law­suit. Had that fi­nal count been suc­cess­fully ar­gued, the town could have been li­able for up to $20 mil­lion in dam­ages that its in­surance would not cover. Be- fore that could hap­pen though, the de­vel­oper went bank­rupt. In May 2015, the mayor and com­mis­sion­ers learned that 126-acre tract was be­ing farmed and could re­main a farm ei­ther in pri­vate hands or as a mush­room grow­ing op­er­a­tion.

If not for the build­ing mora­to­rium, the Knut­sen farm would have been cov­ered with sin­gle-fam­ily homes by now. How­ever, Robert Knut­sen con­tin­ues to farm his 190 acres be­cause he has no bet­ter of­fers. He orig­i­nally an­nexed the fam­ily farm with an eye to­ward putting houses there and con­nect­ing to Ris­ing Sun ser­vices.

“There’s very lit­tle in­ter­est now,” he said re­cently. “I know the hous­ing mar­ket is start­ing to creep up a bit ... but there’s no real good mar­ket.”

While he waits for the right de­vel­oper, Knut­sen con­tin­ues to farm his land. He grows corn, hay and soy­beans and raises Hol­stein heifers.

“I did talk to a de­vel­oper who said it would be good for se­nior ci­ti­zen hous­ing,” he said. “I thought it would be a good place for a restau­rant with the pond.”

But Knut­sen said he’s not sure what his op­tions are. “I have a wait and see at­ti­tude,” he said. Bo­nen­berger, who re­cently an­nounced that Dunkin Donuts is no longer in­ter­ested in a lo­ca­tion on Biggs High­way, is con­duct­ing a sur­vey of town res­i­dents on his town Face­book page to gauge what kind of busi­ness is needed. Eater­ies such as Chick-Fil-A and Chipo­tle, along with cloth­ing stores, are the pre­vail­ing choice.

But af­ter 10 years of agony, Bo­nen­berger said the town’s for­tunes are chang­ing.

“We are be­com­ing rel­e­vant again,” he said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANEBELLMYER

Lovdäl Farm, know bet­ter as the Knut­sen Farm off Biggs High­way, con­tin­ues to grow grain and raise Hol­steins un­til a de­vel­oper for the 190-acre tract is found.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

The former Welling­ton Manor de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues to be farmed on Red Pump Road in Ris­ing Sun. It’s one of many projects that were put on hold when the town en­acted a build­ing mora­to­rium more than 10 years ago.

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