Westminster council considers rezoning part of Koontz farm Developers want commercial zone and 209 homes

June 04, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Discussion of a proposal to create a commercial zone and build more than 200 homes on a portion of the 130-acre Koontz farm dominated yesterday's Westminster Common Council meeting on the city's first comprehensive plan in 12 years.

About a dozen residents and an attorney representing developers Lawrence Macks and Martin K. P. Hill, who have requested rezoning a portion of the Koontz farm, attended last night's council work session.

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan and the five-member Common Council debated the merits of creating the proposed commercial zone for nearly an hour. Neither the residents nor the developers' attorney spoke during the three-hour session.

"My personal feeling is that the property should be left the way it is currently zoned," said Yowan, who sits in on council meetings but does not have voting power. The property is zoned residential and permits construction of homes on half-acre lots.

Councilman Gregory Pecoraro seemed to disagree, saying, "We need commercial land, and the logical place to put a commercial area is along the Route 140 corridor."

The Koontz farm is across from Western Maryland College on Route 140. The proposed development would be bounded by Route 140 and Wyndtryst Drive, according to plans submitted by Hill and Macks.

The rezoning request for the Koontz farm was received in January. If approved by city officials, the rezoning would create 22 commercial acres on the Koontz farm. It would also allow developers to build 209 homes on 54 acres. Under current zoning regulations, 175 houses are allowed.

The developers' proposal does not say what kind of commercial entity might be built there, Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works, said yesterday. But any project there would involve building roads to connect safely with Route 140, Beyard said. Those roads have been outlined in the comprehensive plan.

Beyard said his department has not taken a stand on the project because it was submitted "at the 11th hour" -- two days before the close of public comment on the comprehensive plan.

"We could not recommend the zoning change because the proposal had not received adequate public consideration," Beyard said.

Typically, when a resident wants to change a proposed plan, the change is put forward at a public hearing, offering an opportunity for public comment.

The developers' plans have been debated for months. Residents of Cliveden Reach, an affluent neighborhood that would border the proposed project, fear the development would cause a dramatic increase in traffic through their neighborhood.

"The Koontz project is the only item we received substantial comments on, and it wasn't even part of the comprehensive plan that we submitted to the council," said Beyard. "The reaction has been amazing."

The City of Westminster Comprehensive Plan 1997, the first in 12 years, resulted from more than a year's work by city planners and a six-member Citizen Advisory Committee.

The committee decided to seek public input last year.

The plan outlines goals for the city's development and notes 12 areas -- including roads, environment, housing, transportation, economic development and tourism.

"This is the road map for the future of Westminster," said Beyard. "Overall, this road map is not significantly different from the road map that people bought into years ago. It tries to preserve the community as we know it, and make the adjustments that are needed based on experience."

One item under the land-use proposals suggests two areas along Route 31 as "neighborhood business zones," a new designation for land zoned for commercial development.

Two areas under consideration for this type of zoning are a 1.8-acre parcel behind Westminster Veterinary Hospital and a nearby 20-acre lot.

Two other significant land-use changes are recommended in the comprehensive plan:

A 70-acre lot off Route 140, to the rear of Weis Market and Target store, would be zoned commercial. It is zoned residential.

A number of parcels off Route 140, behind Lowes and Wal-Mart, would be zoned commercial. Those lots total 15 to 20 acres and are zoned industrial.

The council is expected to discuss the comprehensive plan Monday at its regular monthly meeting. A vote is expected this month.

Pub Date: 6/04/98

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