Confusing signals in Sykesville

Carroll County: Town council's recent decisions promote residential growth at expense of business.

June 22, 1999

IT IS well-accepted that Carroll County needs more business and industrial development to balance its tax base, more than 85 percent of which is residential. That's a primary county objective, and it should also be a goal for the incorporated municipalities.

Unfortunately, the town of Sykesville is sending contrary signals in recent zoning decisions, promoting residential growth to the detriment of business.

Last week, it affirmed rezoning of the 32-acre Raincliffe property from industrial to residential, allowing construction of 158 homes. The county for years has resisted similar requests for rezoning, arguing rightly that a paucity of industrial land makes recruiting businesses difficult. The town council's about-face was made despite strong objections from Northrop Grumman Corp., which employs 350 workers on adjacent land. The defense contractor -- which moved from Baltimore County only two years ago -- worries that its expansion would be limited.

Last month, the town council vetoed a request by Episcopal Ministries to the Aging to build a headquarters across the street from the Fairhaven Retirement Community it operates in Sykesville. The nonprofit group needed a zoning change to build on its own land.

Considered separately, as they were, the council's decisions could have been justified: no encroachment into residential neighborhoods, a chance for residential development on land where industrial zoning had failed.

Taken together, however, they represent a step backward for economic development in southeast Carroll. Sykesville is focused on development prospects of the Warfield Complex it is acquiring from the state. That 138 acres of former state hospital land has already attracted solid tenants.

But keeping existing employers and being responsive to their reasonable needs is equally important if the town of Sykesville and Carroll County are to prosper.

Pub Date: 6/22/99

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