Development of 111 homes is endorsed Planning commission, City Council still must OK project

Barn would go to museum

Neighbors concerned about traffic on Uniontown Road

March 17, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Despite concerns about traffic and schools, the Westminster planning staff has endorsed a revised plan for a development of 111 single-family homes at the corner of Uniontown Road and Route 31.

The project is called Union Ridge -- but not for long, even if it's approved by the City Council. County emergency services officials say Union Ridge sounds too much like Union Bridge, and the name will be changed, said developer John Fink.

Fink, of Triangle Realty and Construction Co. in Baltimore County, first sought approval in July 1995, but city planners recommended against it. The revised proposal eliminates townhouses and reduces the number of homes on the 45.3-acre parcel from 156 to 112.

One of the 112 homes would be a refurbished stone house, built between 1841 and 1866, whose construction makes it "fairly rare" for Carroll County, said Kenneth M. Short, historic planner in the county planning and zoning department.

Of greater interest is a barn of the same period, which is "virtually a pristine example," Short said at a public hearing Thursday.

Fink has offered to donate the barn to Carroll County Farm Museum, which would dismantle, move and reassemble it in an old-fashioned barn raising.

"The farm museum needs additional space," said Short. "We're hoping it'll be a major event to have an old-fashioned barn raising." The museum would need to raise about $50,000 for the project, and the barn could be up in a year, he estimated.

"The barn is of the same period as the house, about 1850, and overall it's in really good condition. Because of changes in farming practices, a lot of barns that are still being used have been altered -- timbers have been cut out so you can put big balers and equipment in -- and this barn still has almost

everything."

The county has given its blessing for the move -- but no public funds.

"They're hoping, and I'm sure everybody is, that the community will kind of rally around this," Short said.

In addition to saving the two historic structures, the developer would build phase three of the Westminster Community Trail and a multipurpose field, said his attorney, Charles M. Preston.

Although schools in the area are over capacity or near it, the developer and planners said Cranberry Elementary School -- if opened as planned in September 1998 -- and a new middle school and high school in Westminster should alleviate the problem.

The Union Ridge proposal would route much of the traffic along roads extended into the adjoining Furnace Hills development and the future community of Remview. The proposal calls for no entrance on Route 31.

But the proposal would create a new entrance on Uniontown Road -- which seemed to provoke the greatest concern from about 18 residents at the hearing.

"At the crest of the hill, there are incredible problems getting in and out [and] many, many near-accidents," said Larry Myers, of the 500 block Uniontown Road.

The proposed improvements would include a bypass lane as recommended by the State Highway Administration, but the planning staff report said that parked cars might make that solution unacceptable without pavement marking.

The intersection at Route 31 with Uniontown Road has been rated a "D" by the SHA for evening rush hour -- and would sink to an "E" with the projected increase in traffic. The intersection has a high number of accidents compared with others in the city: 12 from January 1993 through December 1994, and five more in 1995, according to the staff report.

But planner Katrina Tucker told the city planning and zoning commission that the proposed road improvements could bring the level to an acceptable "C."

The commission will take comments from residents through March 24, before voting on the requested zoning change and development plan.

If approved by the commission, the proposal would go before the City Council for another public hearing and vote. Although Carroll County agencies contributed required recommendations to the report, the project is within the city and does not require county approval.

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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