Picture Chestertown with 3,000 more housing units. Figure it with 1.98 persons in each new dwelling. Imagine it then with a population of 11,000.
That’s what’s almost certainly ahead within the next half century – if the economy roars back, if growth pressures resume, if town planners don’t find more ways to control and contain development.
A report by Principal Planner Tony Redman of URS Corp., to the Chestertown Planning Commission on Wednesday night may provide some of the leverage needed, mapping where exactly the resources are and specifying demands on infrastructure if that worst possible case scenario of growth occurs.
“Assuming the population per household remains constant over time at 1.98 persons per household,” Redman reported, “the population could increase by over 6,100 new residents at some future point in time, rivaling the current population of the Town of Easton.”
Redman said that growth is not anticipated over the next 30 years, but, “it may very likely represent the maximum size of Chestertown some 50 or more years from now. . .”
With that much growth would come big strains on infrastructure: 500 new students, a need for three more police officers, and four more fire and rescue personnel, and another 62 acres of parks and recreation lands, and capacity to handle another 262,000 gallons of sewer flushings, plus 262,000 gallons more of drinkable water.
Already, Redman found, “The police headquarters building is too small and inappropriately located to serve the entire community. A study should be completed to examine the facility as it relates to statewide standard and the possibility of a new, larger headquarters located elsewhere.”
The consultant’s findings will be used as an addendum to Chestertown’s comprehensive plan. They didn’t appear to be any surprise to the Planning Commission.
As member Chris Cerino said afterward, “What he did very well was to flesh out the numbers and put them in clear organization in charts. So all the numbers are in front of us at once, all the potential units for annexation.”
So now, having identified 990 potential units for housing inside Chestertown, can’t planners require that they be built on before more lands are annexed? Theoretically, yes. In practice, no.
Says Cerino, “Jim Gatto pointed out the problem with that. The landowners never have developed those properties. So you can’t say you’re going to hold out for in-fill, because you have no control whether the landowners ever will build. It’s a Catch-22 for planners to stiff-arm annexation, when you don’t know, if the in-fill that could come, will come.”