Plan for housing instead of shopping center gets mixed reviews

May 31, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The developer's petition to rezone Raincliffe Industrial Center from light industry to residential use has elicited mixed reactions in Sykesville.

When the town annexed the property several years ago, officials envisioned a thriving shopping center, generating jobs for residents and as much as 25 percent of the tax base. That vision could change to a development of 192 townhouses.

The mayor is taking a wait-and-see attitude. The Planning Commission chairman worries about an eroding industrial base. The president of the town business association welcomes the proposal.

An attorney for David Moxley, owner of the 32-acre site at Raincliffe Road and Route 32, delivered the petition to the Town Council on May 23.

The Planning Commission will review the proposal Monday but will not make a recommendation until at least July, said Commission Chairman Jonathan Herman.

"We will be asking questions and finding out all we can from the developer," said Mr. Herman, who asked Mr. Moxley to prepare a detailed history of the site for the meeting.

Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said he is not resigned to losing industrial land and will reserve his opinion until the commission makes its recommendation.

"We have to know if the design is appropriate and meets all our guidelines," the mayor said.

The proposal includes a conceptual plan for the construction of 192 townhouses over three years.

"The town has to look at the benefits of having affordable housing vs. the costs it incurs," Mr. Clark said. "Our tax rate continues to rise to accommodate the services people are expecting."

During the recent budget review, the mayor said officials found the impact of 200 new homes built during the past year led to a 2-cent increase in the tax rate, from 82 cents to 84 cents. The increase will cover the cost of an additional police officer and another maintenance worker.

"For every dollar in residential revenue, it costs the town $1.22 in services," Mr. Clark said. "For every business dollar, the town pays 85 cents. That is my starting point to say, 'Wait a minute.' "

Mr. Moxley estimates the project eventually would generate $141,000 a year in real estate taxes for Sykesville. That may be inadequate to pay for more police protection, road maintenance and trash hauling, said Mr. Herman, who also serves on the Town Council.

"Residential units would not give us the same tax base," he said. "We would be losing the only accessible, good-sized, industrial site in the town."

While residences are more marketable now, Mr. Herman said, "At some point, commercial space in Eldersburg will be filled and Raincliffe will be looked at."

When Town Manager James L. Schumacher learned of the developer's plan, he said he would regret losing "the only industrial land we have in the town limits."

"When it's gone, it's gone for good."

Nearly two years ago, the town had offered Mr. Moxley "an innovative loan package" of $1.5 million, Mr. Schumacher said. That expired Jan. 1, when Mr. Moxley was unable to secure $2 million in additional conventional financing or attract tenants to the site.

Mr. Moxley blamed "the soft industrial market" for his failure to develop the business center. He said he would consider anything that is "economically feasible" for the site.

Craig Taylor, president of the 44-member Sykesville Business Association, said he has seen the new plan and is "very much in favor of it."

"I can't think of anything I would rather have there," he said. "Mr. Moxley plans a tree-lined area along Route 32 and he will widen Raincliffe Road, which the road desperately needs."

Mr. Taylor said he understands the town's reservations about losing its last industrial opportunity, but he questioned whether that opportunity exists.

"Industrial development is just not going to happen in Sykesville when you can go right up the street to Eldersburg without worrying about changing topography or protecting wetlands," he said.

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