No decision on rezoning industrial land

September 28, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

After listening to six hours of testimony from experts and comments from residents, the Sykesville Town Council could not reach a decision yesterday on rezoning its only industrial land to residential.

The debate was halted at 1 a.m. yesterday and will continue at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Town House.

David Moxley, owner of the 32-acre site along Route 32 at Raincliffe Road, asked the town in June to rezone the property so that he can build 192 townhouses.

After studying the petition for several months, the town Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the council deny the rezoning.

Clark Shaffer, attorney for the land owner, asked that Councilman Jonathan Herman, who also chairs the Planning Commission, not participate in the hearing.

"It is self-evident that someone who has already participated and voted on this issue simply does not have an open mind," said Mr. Shaffer. "It is impossible for him to make an unbiased decision on this case."

Cindy Hitt, the town attorney, said no grounds existed for recusing a commission member from council action.

Mr. Herman said the subject matter is presented to each panel in a different way and refused to recuse himself.

"If I was sitting on the fence, or if evidence shifts my feelings, I should be free to make a decision," he said.

Rezoning action must be based on a mistake in the original zoning or a change in the character of the neighborhood.

Town Manager James L. Schumacher gave a history of the property, which the town annexed as industrial land in 1988.

"It was annexed on its merits as a potential industrial site," said Helen M. Spinelli, county planner. "The original plan was based on a careful, comprehensive study of what the town and neighboring areas needed. We don't use variable market forces in planning."

Several residents, concerned with crowded schools and roads, asked the town to retain the industrial zoning. Mr. Schumacher included into the record a letter from Westinghouse Electric Corp., a neighbor of the site.

The writer urged continued separation of industry and residences.

"We object to the change in use as being incompatible with our use," wrote John D. McCollor, manager of engineering and projects at Westinghouse. "On this site we enjoy a sense of isolation from residential activities, and they from us."

Mr. Shaffer called several expert witnesses in the field of commercial real estate and industrial development.

"Because of topography and development problems, Raincliffe has been passed over," said Walter Patton, a commercial real estate agent who has helped develop several sites in Carroll County. "It remains a very difficult site to sell."

Joseph P. Comma, a member of the Industrial Land Committee for the county Office of Economic Development, said he would not recommend putting any money into developing the site as an industrial center.

"I would rather see a residential subdivision that would collect taxes rather than an industrial site that is not collecting anything," said Mr. Comma.

The council deferred a decision until tomorrow.

"We all need a little more time to digest the information," said Councilwoman Julie Kaus. "We have to make sure our decision is based on the original question of whether or not there was a zoning error."

Councilman William Hall said all the speakers "brought up good points."

"I thought I was in court," he said.

Councilman Eugene Johnson said the panel faces "one of the hardest decisions it has ever had to make. No matter what, someone will come out on the short end."

"We have to decide if the original zoning was really a mistake or if this is just a business deal gone bad," he said.

Monday also marked the resignation of Mayor Kenneth W. Clark, who is moving to take a job out of town.

Without the mayor, the six-member council could deadlock when it votes tomorrow.

"If we have a tie, we will have to review all the information again," Mr. Johnson said.

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