R.S. to lift building ban
Town could see future growth
— 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
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.
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.
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.