County stepchild steps forward

March 19, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Things are looking up in Taneytown, the proverbial stepchild of Carroll County's eight incorporated towns.

Taneytown officials have rejuvenated a long-dormant Economic Development Commission, successfully lobbied for the rezoning of a prime tract for industrial use and landed a nursing home that will have about 300 employees when it opens in the next two years.

"There's a lot of positive things happening in Taneytown," said Frank Neubauer, president of Taneytown Bank and Trust Co. and chairman of the city's revived Economic Development Commission. "We have some real momentum right now."

Recent events have many residents and businesses envisioning a brighter economic future in Taneytown, Carroll's oldest municipality and second most populous, with nearly 5,000 residents.

Such economic news is particularly welcome in the 242-year-old town in northwestern Carroll County, which is home to a disproportionate number of county residents who seek food bTC stamps and other forms of public assistance. More than 40 percent of Taneytown's residents live at or below the poverty line.

"The nursing home is a big boost for us," Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said. "People are looking for things to happen. I have heard some good things from residents."

Barbara "Bobbi" Moser, Carroll's planning liaison to Taneytown, said the city is at the forefront of economic development in the county. Taneytown is home to some of the best industries in the county and has prime industrial sites available.

"Taneytown has quite a bit of land for industrial use," Ms. Moser said. "They've really done a great job of protecting land for industrial development. Other communities have let land go to residential development."

Dick Hull, president of Carroll Land Services, a civil engineering and land development business in Westminster, speculated that the recent business flurry in Taneytown was coincidental but noted that the city is one of the few areas in the county interested in development.

"Taneytown has been very good at long-range planning," he said. "The folks in town seem more cooperative than most. The long-term future is looking very bright, but I would not look to see the city's population double or 20 new industries come in tomorrow."

Barriers that once deterred businesses from considering Taneytown as an industrial location seem to be falling, officials said. They noted that an 80-acre industrial tract on Antrim Boulevard made the final list as a site for a warehouse for a Fortune 50 company.

Although the company ultimately went somewhere else, officials are still marketing the site, Mr. Neubauer said. Bill Jenne, former administrator of the county's Economic Development Department and now a business development officer for Westminster Bank and Trust Co., predicted that cheaper land and Taneytown's proximity to U.S. 15 will further erode barriers, psychological and otherwise.

"Historically, there's always been this psychological barrier that Carroll County ends in Westminster," Mr. Jenne said. "For companies looking to be in the Interstate 795-Baltimore corridor, Taneytown could have been Frostburg it was so far west, even though it's only about 10 miles from Westminster."

The state's approval of a 125-bed nursing home in Taneytown is the biggest economic news in the city since Evapco Inc. moved its headquarters to the town here several years ago.

"These are jobs that are very much needed here," Charles P. "Chip" Boyles, the city manager, said of the 300 jobs the nursing home is expected to bring. The city's economic spirits were further buoyed this month when the County Commissioners agreed to allow Taneytown to rezone a 117-acre tract being annexed to the city for industrial and residential uses.

Under state law, municipalities annexing land may not rezone the property for five years without county approval if the proposed use "substantially" differs from the county's master plan. The former Bollinger farm is zoned for agricultural use in Carroll's master plan.

About 50 acres will be for industrial use and the remainder for residential use and open space under the rezoning, city officials said. The site is considered a viable industrial site because of railroad access. The rejuvenated Economic Development Commission is tackling a variety of other endeavors, including downtown beautification and tourism-related events aimed at drawing more people.

Simple things such as sweeping sidewalks, sprucing up storefronts and burying utility lines are among the measures being pursued to beautify downtown.

A recently completed economic study of Carroll County towns provided a framework for downtown development in Taneytown. Among recommended future uses for vacant stores are an additional dining establishment, a material or yards-goods store, a small gift shop, a hardware, home improvement and general store, and a paper-products or mailing-alternative store.

"Taneytown has the opportunity to capitalize upon its unique history. Its role in the Civil War and linkages with Emmitsburg and Gettysburg should be exploited," the study recommended.

Mr. Neubauer and others here are hopeful that the latest flurry of economic development has set Taneytown on that path.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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