Donald C. Essich, a retired farmer and a member of the county Economic Development Commission, is asking the city of nTC Westminster to annex a 14-acre site near the county airport that was among nearly a dozen sites rejected last month for industrial use by the county planning commission.
Essich said he decided to apply for annexation after he agreed to sell his farmhouse, barn and other buildings to Gaylord Brooks Cabinet & Mill Shop. About half the property, which is zoned for residential use, would remain as a pond or wetlands.
City planners endorsed the proposal, calling it an excellent way to increase the city's industrial tax base. The Westminster Common Council is expected to adopt a resolution tonight that would begin the annexation process.
Essich was a member of the economic development commission's industrial-land subcommittee. The subcommittee was asked by the County Commissioners to identify properties that would be suitable for industrial use.
After two years of study, the subcommittee recommended nine sites totaling more than 1,000 acres, including an 89.75-acre parcel between the county's Air Business Center and the Essich property.
But the seven-member county planning commission accepted rezoning proposals only from a Westminster property owner and the city of Mount Airy. The two sites total about 125 acres. The County Commissioners can accept or reject the planning panel's final recommendations but cannot alter them.
If the Essich land is annexed, Westminster would rezone it for industrial use, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works.
With the required legal advertising and public hearings, annexation usually takes four to six months. Roads -- inadequate roads are the usual obstacle to development in that corridor -- have been improved along Route 97 at Magna Way and Old Bachmans Valley Road.
Mark Moeller, the manager and one of the owners of Gaylord Brooks, said he plans to live in the farmhouse and use the outbuildings for the business, if the annexation goes through.
The mill specializes in fine woodwork, such as a round stairwell recently completed for a home at River Downs, he said. It has clients throughout Maryland and the East Coast.
"It's high-end, custom stuff," Moeller said, and demand is strong. Business has doubled in the year since the company opened in Westminster, and it plans to triple its work force from five to 15 -- and possibly more.
"I think this is appropriate zoning," Beyard said in recommending the proposed annexation to the council. It would be the 38th annexation by the city, he said, noting that the 30th was 84 acres from Essich's 170-acre farm that became the West Branch center.
"We have been working with Mr. and Mrs. Essich over the past six or seven years on the West Branch Trade Center business park," he said.
"I think he made a determination that this land is not going to have an agricultural future -- and I think he's right."
Essich, 65, a grain farmer who retired in 1994, said he once farmed 700 to 800 acres around the county and also operated a cattle-feeding operation until 1982.
Adjoining the 14-acre parcel is a 60-acre residential development that Essich is working on with builder Martin K. P. Hill. It will remain in the county.
Essich said the project, simply called Essich, will include his own new house, which will be the closest neighbor to the woodworking business.
Pub Date: 2/23/98