Planners postpone rezoning decision Most residents at meeting oppose commercial plans

January 21, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

After hearing residents complain for more than an hour yesterday, Carroll County planning commission members put off deciding whether they'll recommend rezoning 1,400 acres of mostly rural land for industrial and commercial use.

Carroll's Economic Development Commission wants the county to rezone 10 sites in Eldersburg, Finksburg and Westminster to attract business and expand the county's commercial and industrial tax base.

But with the exception of a few people who have a financial interest in some of the properties, most who attended the planning commission's hearing on the rezoning proposal yesterday opposed the idea.

If, for example, the county converts 172 agriculturally zoned acres near the Westminster Air Business Center to industrial use, it would "destroy the whole value" of the Kalten Acres neighborhood, Pleasant Valley Road resident Edward Wentz told the commission.

When the county expanded the air center eight years ago, it promised to keep a buffer between the center and Kalten Acres, Wentz said. But county officials now are planning to turn that buffer to industrial use, he said.

"The layout of this particular site is not conducive to industrial development," he said. It consists of "steep, rolling hills, a large wetland area with many streams, and a mature forest" that provides a wildlife habitat for deer, red-tailed hawks and insect-eating bats, he said.

There are many drawbacks to developing the area, including increased traffic on Route 97, Wentz said. "But that doesn't mean that someone will not try to regrade the property, remove the wetland and clear cut the forest, given the right price from the county," he said.

Wentz gave the commission a petition opposing the rezoning, which was signed by him and 90 neighbors. The signers represent 61 homes that adjoin "or are in direct view of this site," he said.

Residents in other parts of the county expressed similar concerns about proposed rezonings near their neighborhoods.

A county consultant recommended against converting a 470-acre site south of Bethel Road and east of Route 140 to industrial and commercial use, David O'Callaghan, president of the Finksburg Planning Area Council, told the commission.

"I don't understand why the site is still beinging pursued" as a candidate for rezoning, he said.

Like Wentz, O'Callaghan had signed a petition opposing the rezoning along with 160 of his neighbors -- including four who own some of the land being eyed for rezoning. One of those property owners, Barry Ledford, told the commission he opposed the rezoning proposal.

Finksburg resident Nancy Burns said that it was a "fluke" that she and some of her neighbors found out about yesterday's meeting despite a letter assuring her that she would be notified of a public hearing on the zoning request. "I feel like you're trying to put something over on us," she said.

Planning director Phillip J. Rovang said Burns and her neighbors would be invited to a public hearing if the planning commission recommends the site for rezoning.

Yesterday's meeting was merely to determine whether the proposed sites would be included in a public hearing, he said. "That doesn't mean that if goes beyond today that it will be approved."

Regardless, "the general feeling through our area is that you don't want our input," said M. L. "Mar" Stevenson. "We feel that we weren't given proper information," the Finksburg resident said. "I'm a local business owner. I want my county looking out for me as I'm trying to look out for my county."

Eldersburg resident Rebecca Windom said a commercial and industrial rezoning near Routes 26 and 32 would worsen a "horrendous" traffic situation.

Further, she worried that a commercial center directly across the street from Liberty High School might lure some students away from school.

Donna Slack of Eldersburg agreed. Some students congregate around a nearby water tower and would likely find a commercial shopping center irresistible, she said. "I can't imagine a commercial development where you would not find a lot of kids," she said.

Planning commission members, who were given a tour of the 10 sites Friday, had held open the possibility that they might vote on them yesterday, but decided they need more time. They plan to discuss the rezoning requests in a 6 p.m. work session Jan. 29 at a place to be announced.

The Economic Development Commission "has given us 10 options," planning commission member Grant S. Dannelly told residents yesterday. "And I can tell you right now, there will be a variety of results from this. Some are definite 'nos,' some 'maybes' and some definite 'yeses.' "

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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