Board hears mixed views on rezoning Developer wants permission to build for commercial use

Plan for site not revealed

Fears expressed on traffic

support given for new store

October 16, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Commissioners received a mixed reaction at a public hearing last night on a developer's request to rezone part of North Carroll Shopping Plaza for commercial use.

It has been rumored for months that the developer, a subsidiary of the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, is planning a Wal-Mart or other "big-box store" at the shopping center on Route 30 between Hampstead and Manchester.

About 18 people attended the hearing and, when asked for a show of hands, about eight indicated they opposed the rezoning request.

But others said that a general merchandise store would not harm local businesses.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates were present but didn't indicate when they might decide the matter.

H. M. Mall Associates Limited Partnership of Baltimore unsuccessfully petitioned the Carroll County planning commission in June to rezone 11.6 acres of its 33.5-acre property.

In August, the county planning staff recommended keeping the existing zoning, said Jeannie Joiner, the comprehensive planner for Manchester and Hampstead. The shopping center lies between the two towns but in the planning areas of both.

Attorneys Charles O. Fisher Sr. and Charles O. Fisher Jr. argued for the developer that the area has changed, primarily because a planned route for a Manchester bypass that would have bisected the property has been abandoned.

They did not indicate what was planned for the site.

Glenn L. Weinberg, an attorney for H. M. Mall Associates, said earlier that he could not confirm their specific plans. The 11.6 acres behind the existing buildings are zoned for low-density residential development.

Hampstead town officials have told the county that any rezoning should occur only as part of the comprehensive plan for Hampstead that is being worked on and expected to take about two years.

Councilman Haven N. Shoemaker Jr., representing the town at the hearing, said changing a bypass configuration on paper "does not mean the zoning should be changed."

Given the state's Smart Growth policy, he said, "Commercial sprawl at this juncture along the bypass route could have some negative implications for funding" of bypasses for both towns.

The existing shopping center might be 70 percent vacant now, Shoemaker said, but "a 'big-box' of the type contemplated could force a 70 percent or better vacancy rate up and down Main Street in both Hampstead and Manchester."

Hampstead Business Association weighed in against the rumored Wal-Mart in August.

Bob Klingenberg, of Spring Hill Lane and an owner of Bob's Variety Store in Hampstead, predicted 2,700 cars coming through Hampstead and "a line five miles long -- when Route 30 is so bad a bypass was needed back in the 1970s."

"Route 30 is the same width as when covered wagons went over it," Klingenberg said.

Ken Wright, a Hampstead resident and member of its business association, said the intersection at Route 30 and Brodbeck Road "is already very dangerous" and traffic sometimes backs up in town for four miles in both directions.

But Kenneth E. Bull, a retired construction supervisor whose home is near the shopping center, said he thought a general-merchandise store would be "an asset to the community."

"The traffic is already on the road, en route to shop," he said.

Bull's daughter, Beverly A. Hockstad of Manchester, said there is enough business to go around. People are driving to shop in Westminster, Hanover, Owings Mills, Towson and York, Pa., she said.

She also praised the revitalization of the town of Bel Air by Cordish Co.

Without any rezoning or any say from the towns, the developer can construct a 98,000-square-foot building, according to Weinberg and other spokesmen.

But their preferred plan would be to raze the south building of the shopping center and build a 120,000-square-foot store at the rear of the parcel. The larger building would require the zoning change from the county for the portion of the property now zoned residential.

According to the report on the request by the county planning staff, the property was developed during the 1960s as Dutterer's grocery store and expanded over the years into three buildings.

In 1987, the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Management Administration reported contamination in monitoring wells on the site with tetrachloromethane, a volatile organic compound. Remedial steps were taken in 1994 and the site is being monitored by the state. It does not have town water or sewage lines, but that could change.

In its comments on the proposal, the State Highway Administration said development of the property should be coordinated with plans for bypasses for Hampstead and Manchester, according to the report to the county planning commission.

A bypass for Hampstead is in the preliminary land-acquisition phase. No bypass for Manchester is in any state highway plan.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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