EDC cool to a residential Raincliffe

August 01, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Amy Miller contributed to this article.

The chairman of Sykesville's planning commission says he is not surprised that the county Economic Development Commission (EDC) opposes rezoning Raincliffe Center from industrial to residential.

"The [town] commission is leaning toward the same decision," said Jonathan Herman. "It is in the town's best interests."

The town Planning and Zoning Commission will have a public hearing on the rezoning petition at 7 p.m. today at the Town House. Members then will make a recommendation to the Town Council, which has final authority on the petition.

Last week, the county EDC decided to recommend that the land stay industrial. "The general thrust is that we don't think it is appropriate for rezoning and we are going to suggest to the town that it remain such," Chairman Paul Denton said. "My understanding is that the town wants it to remain commercial as well."

Mr. Herman agreed: "A change would not be at all beneficial. It is the town's only industrial property."

Mr. Herman said the site's proximity to Interstate 70 and Route 26, and the location at Raincliffe Road and along an improved Route 32, make the property ideal for business.

Two months ago, David Moxley, developer of the 32-acre site, asked the town to rezone the property to residential. At the same time, he asked the planning commission to review his plans for 192 townhouses on the site. The panel refused to consider the residential development along with the rezoning.

"After we refused to review his development, Mr. Moxley informally offered to sell the property to the town," Mr. Herman said. "The town would love to own the property, but we can't afford it."

Rezoning could be granted, if the petitioner proves a mistake exists in the original zoning or if a significant change has occurred in the character of the neighborhood.

"There was never a mistake in zoning," Mr. Herman said. "The land was zoned industrial when Mr. Moxley asked us to annex it. The neighborhood still has plenty of residences and overcrowding in the schools."

Mr. Moxley has said repeatedly that he has made every effort to find commercial tenants. Nearly two years ago, the town offered him an unusual public financing package of $1.5 million. The loan expired Jan. 1 when Mr. Moxley failed to secure additional conventional financing or lease space at the center.

"Something is wrong with this picture," Mr. Herman said. "A quick fix is just not going to happen. Eventually, Mr. Moxley will find suitable tenants for the property."

He said the developer should consider improving the property.

"Right now he has a big field, and some buyers don't have the vision to see what can be done," he said. "He might have to get a little more aggressive."

EDC member Joseph Comma said last week that it was shortsighted to recommend the Moxley property remain commercial when building houses there would give the county immediate economic benefits. He said he believed that if the developer did not receive his rezoning, he would wait and try to get it changed during the next comprehensive planning review. That review may not take place for 10 to 20 years.

"There is no tax revenue or economic benefit for it just to sit there," said Mr. Comma, who works for Tri-County Real Estate.

But Robert A. "Max" Bair, county director of administrative services, and Mr. Denton said the decision to recommend commercial zoning for the site had not been made lightly.

"Considering the problem of overcrowded schools down there, townhouses on that site would just aggravate the situation," Mr. Bair said. "Also, when we made up the water and sewer master plan, we were not planning to have houses there."

He noted that the land is surrounded on three sides by commercial and industrial properties and the Central Laundry Facility -- a state prison for inmates nearing release -- is on the fourth side.

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