Westminster draft plan sparks resident opposition Neighborhood stores, mass transit extensions top concerns at meeting

November 24, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Opposition to neighborhood shopping centers and the prospect of extending mass transit to Westminster dominated a public hearing on the city's first comprehensive plan in 12 years.

City planners -- who had said they wanted reaction to a draft version of the blueprint for Westminster's future -- were pleased bTC by the turnout of about 50 people at the hearing Thursday at the fire hall on Main Street.

City planner Katrina L. Tucker outlined the plan's 12 areas -- including roads, environment, housing, transportation, economic development and tourism -- and goals.

One item under the land-use proposals suggests two areas along Route 31 as "neighborhood business zones," a new designation for land already zoned for commercial development. The new category would limit further the types of businesses allowed in the areas.

"There is a need for commercial uses along Route 31," Tucker said, pointing on a map to parcels at Route 31 and Tahoma Farm Road, and east of Route 31 between West Main Street and Uniontown Road. "Now, you have to travel to Route 140" to shop, she said.

Steven Young, who lives on Masters Court, expressed concern about stores in neighborhoods.

"We're concerned about traffic patterns, and we'd also like the planning commission to take into consideration what kinds of goods and services should be available for neighborhood convenience," he said. "You probably need some community input on what is needed there."

Several residents of Medinah Circle expressed surprise to learn that one of the parcels had been zoned for development for years.

"How much do we really need out there?" asked Allen Cosgrove of Ryder Court. "It just doesn't make any sense to me."

Tucker replied, "That's what this process is all about."

The City of Westminster Comprehensive Plan 1997 resulted from more than a year's work by city planners and a six-member Citizen Advisory Committee.

When there was a tie vote on a proposal -- as there was on mass transit -- Tucker said the committee decided to seek public input.

One goal is to "explore the potential for bus service providing a commuter link to the Owings Mills Metro station" and for Maryland Rail Commuter service to Baltimore and Washington.

One of six speakers opposing the extension of mass transit was Debbie Finch, a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee.

"I am strongly opposed to any commuter service from Baltimore to Westminster," Finch said. "We do not want to be a bedroom community."

Several speakers urged that the mass transit proposals be deleted from the plan, citing growth, traffic and crime concerns.

"I would feel a lot better if the plan removed all wording about the MARC trains and the mass transit," said Brian Hogan of Ruby Drive. "I think everybody would feel a lot more comfortable."

Earlier this year, Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan stirred controversy -- and an election challenge -- with his comments at a planning meeting about the number of commuters on Route 140, and the possibility of having bus service to the Owings Mills Metro station.

The planning commission will discuss the draft and accept comments until 4 p.m. Jan. 8, and then make its recommendation to the mayor and Common Council.

Comments may be sent to P.O. Box 710, Westminster 21158.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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