Sykesville officials brainstorm over town's future

January 30, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Sykesville Mayor Kenneth W. Clark sparked lively debate yesterday when he opened a retreat for municipal officials by saying: "No idea is too dumb. We need to hear them all."

Amid laughter, the mayor briefly entertained "hostile annexations industrial land" and "tolls along Route 32" to generate revenue.

He quickly discounted those concepts in favor of other suggestions: a downtown parade to draw shoppers to Main Street, amassing capital during the present growth spurt and instilling civic pride.

Mr. Clark, who organized the retreat so town officials could meet "without the constraints of a council meeting," moved the session to Fairhaven Retirement Center and followed a loose agenda.

Though officials discussed ideas and plans for the town's future, no action was taken at the informal meeting. The mayor polled officials on their views concerning the town's weaknesses and strengths, then gave his vision for Sykesville and asked for their help in developing a plan for the town's future.

"At the end of my term, I hope to have the capital in place to put Sykesville on solid financial ground," he said. "We are on a roll with financial stability and growth. Let's start to build capital while we are ahead of the game."

Attracting industry is crucial to amassing capital, Mr. Clark said.

"Commercial property provides a better tax ratio, but how do we get it?" he asked.

Sykesville has seen the problems in developing industrial-zoned land in its own back yard. The town annexed the 32-acre Raincliffe Center several years ago and put together a $1.5 million public financing package.

The loan agreement expired this month when David Moxley, owner of the site at Raincliffe Road and Route 32, was unable to attract tenants to the property.

Mr. Moxley may ask the town to rezone the property for residential use, a proposal which would eliminate the only remaining industrial land in town.

"We are not going to get any more industrial land," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "If we hold back on a zoning change, other industrial land will fill up and Raincliffe will become more valuable."

While the town is growing -- nearly 500 new housing lots are in the planning or construction stages -- that development may become a liability.

"If revenues flatten and costs of services rise, the new homes could become more of a burden," said Mr. Schumacher. "Then, you make up the deficit by increasing taxes."

Each new resident costs the town $290 annually in services, said Mr. Schumacher.

"Sykesville could be in a tax crunch period 10 years from now," said the mayor. "Do we keep what we have or do we target different areas for annexation?"

Public water and sewer will eventually draw more residents into town, said Councilman Jonathan Herman, who urged the town to be selective in its annexations.

"It comes down to dollars and cents," he said. "Our expenses must balance with our taxes."

The mayor also asked if the town should encourage construction of affordable housing.

"Everyone has the right to own a home," said Councilman Eugene Johnson. "People can't afford the homes here."

Mr. Clark said that whatever direction the town takes, "each of us has to step up and do part of it. I can put any strategy forward, but we all have to follow through. Our goals may not always be popular but they are pursuable."

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