Bethel parcel denied services Officials won't extend water, sewer to land eyed for development

January 16, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

As the county's Planning and Zoning Commission begins a tour today of 10 industrial and commercial sites that Carroll economic development officials want rezoned for business development, Westminster leaders are refusing to extend city water and sewer service along Route 140 to one key property.

Carroll County's Economic Development Commission has been eyeing a nearly 500-acre parcel near Route 140 and Bethel Road in Reese for more than 18 months and has recommended commercial zoning for the conservation and agricultural land.

Among the properties the planning commission will look over are a parcel along Route 97 near the county airport and a site near Route 31 and Stone Chapel Road, south of Westminster. Other sites are in the Freedom area in southern Carroll County.

The city relayed its stance on the Bethel Road property in a letter this week from Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works.

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said extending water and sewer service would open the whole

stretch of Route 140 to development, and only an extraordinary commitment by a major new employer would make the city reconsider.

"They haven't really ever sat down with us about this," Yowan said. "I think we've tried to make it pretty clear that, while we're never going to say never, that we're obviously very reluctant to just extend water and sewer down 140 because then for anyone along the way there, we'd be very hard-pressed to stop them from hooking up.

"We've been working to bring new sources of water on line," Yowan noted. "We had the drought last year, and we made it through OK -- but given another month, we would have had to impose some restrictions."

Environmental issues

Beyard said about 190 of 471 targeted acres near Bethel Road are zoned for conservation because they are environmentally sensitive.

He also questioned whether the proposal conflicts with the environmental component of the county's comprehensive plan.

The proposed rezoning clearly is in conflict with the state's Smart Growth policy of concentrating development near municipalities, he said.

"Rezoning it will create the type of leapfrog development and sprawl pattern of development that the Smart Growth legislation is intended to prevent," Beyard said.

The land near Bethel Road includes eight parcels of woodland, clearings and farmland across from the former site of Telemecanique Inc., an electrical components manufacturer that closed in August 1993.

No market

A consultant's report to the county in August said a market for an industrial park was unlikely there for 10 to 15 years -- and listed as essentials the extension of water and sewer service from Westminster and widening of Route 140 to six lanes. Neither development is even in the planning stages, Westminster officials point out.

City officials say they will consider extending water and sewer service to some parcels along Route 97 north of Westminster because they are in the vicinity of industrial parks, where extensive services have been provided.

But, Beyard said, further industrial and commercial development not feasible without extensive improvements to two-lane Route 97.

Last month, more than 50 area residents attended an information meeting with county officials about proposed improvements to a 2-mile stretch of the road. Almost everyone opposed the plan -- which surprised county officials, who had been prompted to make the recommendation by the residents' concerns about safety after several traffic fatalities.

Land-use question

Several speakers charged that the real purpose of the road improvements was to spur industrial development.

J. Michael Evans, the county director of public works, attributed the negative reaction to "a land-use question, much more than a roads issue."

"You have one group of people who say, 'It's clearly just a plot to make this industrial,' while the other groups says, 'We know it's a dangerous intersection, and anything you can do to make 97 safer,' " said Evans.

As a result of the meeting, Evans said, state and county highway planners are re-evaluating the proposal.

The county planning commission will study all the rezoning proposals, then make a recommendation to county commissioners.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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