Shopping center foes pack hearing Residents worry about traffic and property values

March 31, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Eldersburg residents overwhelmingly opposed a proposed $30 million shopping center and theater complex on Route 32 during the fourth day of a zoning hearing yesterday.

After listening to comments all day, the county Board of Zoning Appeals scheduled a fifth hearing on the Promenade at Eldersburg. The hearing will continue to 9: 30 a.m. April 20 in Room 300A of the County Office Building.

The board hopes to announce its decision at that time.

Opponents outnumbered supporters by about 4-to-1 yesterday. Those who wanted upscale shopping closer to home faced neighbors with well-researched arguments and statistics on security concerns, declining property values and the prospect of increased traffic on congested Route 32.

Roberta Windham, who lives less than a mile from the proposed center, offered evidence of 56 homes near the Promenade whose property tax assessments have declined since commercial development began along Route 32 north of Route 26.

"It really scares me that commercial use is progressing up Route 32, and with it comes crime," she said. "I moved to Eldersburg to improve the quality of my live. This development will eliminate it."

Before Bernard Robbins can proceed with plans for a $30 million shopping center in the county's most populous area, with 28,000 residents, the board must approve a commercial venture on land zoned for industry.

Angela Lee, a homemaker who lives about a mile from the proposed center, said she would prefer a well-planned commercial project to an industrial use.

"You can't bring so many residents here and then fail to provide commercial facilities for them," Lee said.

John Plevyak of Finksburg said the county is "sorely lacking" in shopping and entertainment. He called the stretch of Liberty Road from Route 32 east to Baltimore County "the most irresponsible hodgepodge development."

A sales contractor who has worked with Robbins, Plevyak said the developer will listen to people's concerns. Many residents never want to get to the point where they are working with a shopping center developer, he said.

"It is not a question of integrity, beauty or scope, but where this project is," said Susan Krebs of Eldersburg. "Put it on a piece of property that is away from homes."

Under local zoning ordinances, the board may reject Robbins' application if it affects "the peaceful enjoyment of people in their homes" or if roads cannot handle the increased traffic, projected at 15,000 additional vehicles a day, according to Robbins' traffic consultant.

Eric Dougherty, an Eldersburg resident, called that estimate low and produced state and county statistics to reinforce his argument. A 14-screen movie complex and anchor store alone VTC could generate 15,000 trips a day, he said. The Promenade would also have several restaurants and small shops.

Dougherty stressed the importance of industrial land in a county eager to increase its industrial tax base. The 34-acre property, at the northeast end of the Eldersburg Business Center, is one of the last available industrial sites in South Carroll.

"Carroll County desperately needs good-paying jobs, not ticket-takers at a movie theater," Krebs said.

Several residents criticized the county for poor planning and for changing zoning near an established community.

"It is unfair to change the rules of the game midway through," said Jean Hruch of Eldersburg. "We do not want, need or demand a zoning change."

Krebs said she was disappointed that citizens have to do the work of county planners. Residents should not have to investigate thick volumes of zoning regulations and lose time from their jobs to argue their rights, she said.

"No one told me I would have to use a 6-inch thick book of zoning exceptions before I bought a home," said Krebs.

Her husband reaffirmed her arguments.

"We were confident there would be no change at all," said Mark Krebs. "Not a soul on Bennett Road would have built there if they had known about this project. Who is considering our property rights?"

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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