SYKESVILLE - Allen Gillis and Robert Mullinix couldn't believe their ears Monday night.
The Sykesville businessmen had offered the town government $2,000 for a half-acre plot off Sandosky Road that has gained infamy as an overgrown eyesore.
The businessmen, who own and operate an adjacent four-acre commercial plaza, said they wanted to buy the land and clean it up, a job that the town's strapped Public Works Department couldn't keep up with.
But when Gillis and Mullinix attended Monday's meeting of the Town Council, where a vote on the sale was scheduled, they listened incredulously as about a half-dozen residents who live near the plaza lambasted the proposed sale and voiced suspicion that the land would be developed.
"I'm scared there's going to be a lot of crimes and a lot of cars," said a woman who did not state her name.
But Gillis told the council that he and Mullinix are interested in the land -- classified as an "unbuildable" lot because of its steep, rocky terrain -- purely for aesthetic reasons.
"All we're going to do is clean the weeds out of it and leave it alone," he said. "That's it. There's nothing else we can do with the property."
After the public discussion of the proposed sale spiraled into a volley of disparaging comments, Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. halted the debate and called for a vote.
The council split, 3-3, on the resolution to sell the land. Council President Charles Mullins supported the sale, as did Charles "Tim" Ferguson and Maxine Wooleyhand. Kenneth Clark, Eugene Johnson and Wiley Purkey voted against it.
Helt, who as mayor is empowered to break a council tie on a resolution but not on an ordinance, cast the deciding vote in favor of the sale.
The mayor said the prospect of getting the parcel cleaned up justified selling it.
Residents also had said they fear Gillis and Mullinix would reopen a long-closed stretch of road that could provide access to the plaza through their neighborhood. They expressed worry about traffic on Mellor and Maple avenues.
But Gillis said no plans for reopening the road are in the works.
"I don't know what's going to happen to the old road in the future," he said. "I'll probably just close it up."
After the vote, Gillis said he didn't think there would be such resistance to the sale.
Gillis owns and operates an Amoco station and Sykesville Car Service Inc. at the plaza. A convenience store, pharmacy and a package store lease space at the site.
Also on Monday, the council:
* Introduced a resolution to lower the limit of the state's taxable homeowners assessment from the current rate of 15 percent annually. The General Assembly recently passed legislation mandating reduction of the assessment to at least 10 percent annually. Municipalities can reduce the assessment even further if they so choose.
Town Manager James Schumacher is recommending the council enact a 10 percent limit. The council scheduled a discussion and vote on the measure for its Dec. 10 meeting.
* Announced that a representative of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will attend the Dec. 10 meeting to answer questions about preliminary state plans to open for deer hunting some areas in the Patapsco State Park bordering Sykesville.