Raincliffe rezoning testimony heard

Sykesville council to decide on petition

May 11, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Sykesville Town Council was hearing testimony late last night on a controversial petition to rezone a 32-acre property along Route 32.

More than 50 people crowded into Town House and many of them had to stand for the hearing on Raincliffe Center that began about 7 p.m.

The unimproved parcel was once the only industrial property in Sykesville. If the Town Council rezones it as residential, it will become another subdivision in the town of 3,500 residents.

As of 10 p.m., the council had not voted on the petition and testimony was expected to last at least for another hour.

David Moxley, owner and developer, plans about 91 townhouses and 64 single-family homes on the site.

After years of trying unsuccessfully to market Raincliffe as a business center, Moxley has said construction on the unimproved parcel would have to be housing.

"The physical constraints of this site have made industrial development impossible," he said.

Sean Davis, a land-use planner hired by Moxley, underscored that position. "Increased wetlands and the topography have substantially impaired any industrial development on this site," Davis testified.

Five years ago, after weeks of discussion and a marathon public hearing that lasted long past midnight, the council denied a similar petition from Moxley. The reason then was that Raincliffe offered the town its only opportunity for business development.

Now the town has what officials call a bigger and better business opportunity in the Warfield Complex, a 138-acre property just north of Raincliffe. Sykesville recently annexed Warfield, which was once part of Springfield Hospital Center, and plans to renovate it into an employment campus.

The town planning commission has added its support to the rezoning of Raincliffe and recommended opening the property to residential development.

The major opposition to Moxley's proposal came from Northrop Grumman Corp., a leading employer in Carroll and Raincliffe's closest neighbor. The defense contractor, which employs 350 people at the Sykesville plant, objects to housing being built so close to its operation. Company officials also said the subdivision would hamper its plans for future expansion.

During several discussions with Moxley, Northrop Grumann officials insisted on a landscaped buffer between its property and Raincliffe of no less than 170 feet. Moxley has refused, saying it would take at least four acres of land from his development.

"If residential zoning is granted it would reduce our developmental land by 29 percent," said John Russell, an attorney for Northrop Grumann.

"Whether this property is marketable as industrial is not an issue to us," said Councilwoman Debby Ellis. "The issue is will there be a net benefit to the town."

Davis assured the council there would be economic benefits particularly to main street businesses and a net increase in property taxes.

"This is exactly what was considered in Smart Growth legislation," said Davis. "It directs development to an existing community."

Ellis was also concerned about increase in traffic at Raincliffe Road and Route 32, an intersection rated a failure by the Maryland Highway Administration.

Pub Date: 5/11/99

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