Taking the Long View in Sykesville

June 20, 1994

In deciding whether to allow 32 acres of industrial-zoned land to be rezoned as residential, the Sykesville Planning Commission -- and, ultimately, the town council -- must decide between the interests of Sykesville and those of the individual owner of the land in question.

Even though David Moxley hasn't been able to find tenants for this property, it would be a mistake to remove this industrial site from Sykesville's zoning map.Adding 192 townhouses may produce a handsome return on Mr. Moxley's investment, but it will come at the expense of the town's long-range interests.

A number of reasons exist to maintain the current zoning. This is the town's only industrial-zoned land. To develop a balanced tax base, Sykesville needs industrial and commercial properties because they normally generate more in taxes than they consume in public services. Converting the property into townhouses will only further skew the town's already heavy reliance on residential property owners.

Moreover, from a general planning perspective, the current zoning is appropriate. The property could not be better situated for commercial use. It is

located on Route 32 with easy access to Interstate 70. Truck and commercial traffic can reach it without passing through residential neighborhoods. It would be impossible for Sykesville to annex and create a similar industrial-zoned parcel because most of the potential sites along Route 32 are state-owned -- either as part of Springfield Hospital Center or Patapsco State Park.

While Sykesville town officials developed an innovative and attractive state-assisted financing package as part of this proposal, Mr. Moxley was marketing the property during the height of the recent recession. Given that most businesses were reluctant to expand during that period, making a final judgment about the commercial and industrial potential of this parcel seems premature. Moreover, the lack of improvements -- roads, utilities, water and sewer -- may have discouraged commercial tenants.

Rezoning requests can be granted if a mistake was made in the original zoning, or the character of the neighborhood has changed. In this case, neither of those conditions has been met.

Keeping the current zoning is the right course of action.

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