The opening of the expanded Freedom District sewage treatment plant will clear the way for the eventual development of about 2,500 to 3,000 lots in various phases of the subdivision approval process.
Sewer hookups haven't been allocated since a moratorium was imposed in September 1990 because the plant was nearing capacity and needed improvements to meet state discharge standards. The moratorium has stalled a wave of development plans in Sykesville and Eldersburg.
The capacity of the plant will nearly double, from 1.8 million gallons per day to 3.5 million. An upgraded waste-water treatment system has been installed to reduce pollutants. The plant is expected to be open for new hookups in September.
"I anticipate there are going to be a good many plans going through here," said Franklin G. Schaeffer, county Bureau of Development Review chief. "A lot of people will want to get lots on record."
County planner Scott Fischer said the pace of development in the region designated as a residential and industrial growth area will depend on the economy.
"It's not clear we'll have accelerated growth strictly because of the plant expansion," he said.
The county allows a maximum of 25 sewer hookups per quarter per builder so that development is spread over time.
Mr. Fischer said the planning office hasn't experienced "a major rush" of new plans for the area.
About 292 units are on a waiting list for sewer allocations. Thousands of others are at earlier stages of development review.
"It's a great relief to a lot of developers who have been sitting on parcels for a long while," said Jeffrey Powers, vice president of Powers Construction Co. in Westminster, a contractor for Hawk Ridge Farm in Sykesville. "It's been a financial hardship carrying these properties."
As interest payments have mounted for the dormant properties, banks have re
quested more security from developers to protect their investments, said Mr. Powers.
The expanded plant could handle about 4,000 additional residential hookups, said Keith Kirschnick, public works director. That number could be less, depending on commercial and industrial hookups, he said. The plant now serves about 3,500 residences.
The county will use about 75 percent of the plant's capacity. Maryland Environmental Services will use about 25 percent for Springfield Hospital Center.
Three major industrial parks -- Eldersburg Business Park, London Square Business Park and the Raincliffe Center -- are awaiting subdivision and development.
Eleven subdivisions of 75 or more lots are proposed for Eldersburg along the Liber ty Road and Route 32 corridors. Of those, four -- Benjamin's Claim, Carrolltowne, Hunter's Crossing and Piney Ridge Village -- would include mixtures of single-family homes, town houses and apartments.
Sykesville has three major single-family home developments in the works. Hawk Ridge Farm, Shannon's Run and Carroll Fields could add about 400 residences to the town over two decades and increase its current population by about 50 percent, from 2,400 to 3,600. Builders are at the end of the approval process now for about 160 units, said Town Manager James Schumacher.
Mayor Lloyd Helt Jr. said Third Avenue, which would link much of the new development to Route 32, might not be able to handle the growth. The Obrecht Road extension, a project that has been postponed by the county, "becomes ever-more critical," he said.
The sewage plant project was estimated at $15.3 million. Maryland Environmental Services paid $4 million, the state contributed a $500,000 grant, and the county borrowed the balance.
The commissioners have proposed increasing sewer user rates to pay operating costs and charging current residents $61.50 annually to pay for the upgrade. They also proposed raising the charge for new hookups from $3,098 to $5,112.