Finksburg residents brace to fight rezoning Commission to meet to discuss fate of Bethel Road area


Finksburg-area residents are ready for a fight if the county planning commission recommends the rezoning of hundreds of acres of woodland and farmland for industrial use.

Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission will meet Thursday to discuss proposed revisions to the county master plan. They include proposals to rezone nearly 500 acres at Bethel Road and Route 140 in Finksburg.

The 75 residents who attended a recent Finksburg Planning Area Council meeting made it clear they oppose rezoning the Bethel Road site, designated for agriculture and conservation.

The 471-acre site, along Route 140 and east of Bethel Road, is one of 10 recommended by the county's Economic Development Commission for industrial use. The 10 sites comprise more than 1,155 mostly rural acres in the Eldersburg, Sykesville and Westminster areas.

County planners were invited to the meeting at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church to discuss the Finksburg rezoning.

The twin specters of large stores and traffic jams loomed large for many. None of the residents at the meeting favored the rezoning.

Changing the zoning doesn't change the land's use, unless the owner wants to change it, county planners said.

That notion was greeted skeptically by some residents, who said they have seen other sections of the county fall to development after rezoning.

David O'Callaghan, Finksburg Planning Area Council president, said the group has more than 160 signatures on petitions opposing the rezoning, including four of the largest land-owners.

When some objected that the process had been undertaken without notice to the people affected, Steve Horn, county chief of planning, said:

"When the Economic Development Commission first floated this site, they hadn't done any legwork, so to speak, in terms of notifying all the property owners. So the county staff has been notifying the adjacent property owners trying to get a lot of information out in a short time."

"We've done our own legwork," one woman told him, referring to the signed petitions. "Isn't that a waste of money, if the property owners do not want to go forward with something like that?"

"There are a lot of obstacles," Horn replied, "not least that some property owners are opposed to it. The water and sewer issue has become very clear."

'Employment campus'

Daphne P. Quinn, a county planner, said the area had been seen as a possible "employment campus," a zoning classification that has been in the works for a while but not adopted.

"That's the kind of thing we were envisioning for this area," she said.

O'Callaghan said, "We've seen that in South Carroll, and instead you get Wal-Mart, Giant, cineplexes -- that's the biggest fear here."

Quinn outlined the recent history of the proposal and the steps remaining before rezoning could occur.

The next big step comes Thursday when the planning commission holds a work session on the proposed master plan update, which is to include a decision on the sites.

Although the commission might not take comments directly from the public, a 60-day review period will allow for written comments to be submitted, planners said.

Water service required

If the commission recommends rezoning the site, the proposal would be forwarded to the County Commissioners and would require a public hearing.

A consultants' report on the Bethel Road site said it requires water and sewer service and widening of Route 140, steps which aren't even in the planning stages. Westminster officials have said they will not extend water and sewer service south to the area.

The report also said the Finksburg area would not likely be attractive until the Owings Mills area is built out, probably in 10 to 15 years or more.

The Bethel Road acreage lies across from the site of the former Telemecanique Inc., an electrical components manufacturer that closed in August 1993.

"If this is such a hot industrial area," Hopkins said, "why can't they sell Telemecanique?"

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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