Deal raises renewal worries

Mental health service buying old post office seen as detriment

Rezoning planned

June 25, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

An outpatient and residential mental health service is buying the old post office in the heart of downtown Westminster, sparking concern by city officials who say putting a treatment center there clashes with the commercial revitalization of downtown.

The sale of the 1934 brick building to Key Point Health Services of Bel Air is scheduled to go to settlement early next month, said David Goldbloom of Erwin L. Greenberg Commercial Corp., who represents the U.S. Postal Service. He declined to reveal the price.

"It would not be helpful," Councilman Gregory Pecoraro said of the treatment center's location at the old post office. "We had some pretty clear ideas about development in the downtown business district. We like to make sure those [treatment] facilities are located in the right place to serve the whole community."

Key Point officials could face delays.

Westminster's mayor and Common Council voted last week to suspend the business zoning on the post office site. And the officials placed a three-month moratorium on development plans and building permits for the post office and the former site of Farmers Supply Co., which is surrounded by a chain-link fence.

In addition, new downtown Westminster zoning regulations could soon be enacted.

Damian L. Halstead, chairman of the council, said yesterday that the council, Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan and city planners are considering creating commercial-only zoning along parts of Main Street as part of a five-year push to revitalize downtown.

The post office building is zoned for business and general use, Goldbloom said.

Karl Weber, chief executive officer of Key Point, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Yowan said putting a psychiatric treatment facility at 83 E. Main does not fit in with the revitalization planning, which has been going on for nearly two years and is expected to be outlined in a formal report by city planners in the fall.

"We're trying to promote customer traffic downtown," Yowan said. "We'd prefer a mixture of retail and office space for that site."

The mayor said city officials are attempting to find another site for Key Point.

"We can have a lot of say in the sale," Yowan said. "It certainly impacts that site. They are not going to get a building permit."

Key Point operates outpatient mental health and psychiatric rehabilitation centers for adults and children in Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.

The post office closed in August when the Postal Service moved to a new building on Woodward Drive outside town. Together with the Farmers Supply Co. site, on Main Street at Green and Liberty streets, the locations were identified in a 1994 report on Westminster redevelopment as "an ideal location for a quality housing development or office complex."

Westminster officials say they are determined to work toward revitalization of Main Street's two-mile, historic corridor -- overshadowed in recent years by rapid commercial development along nearby Route 140.

In January, that push was set back when 4-year-old plans for a $6 million development and 135 new jobs were canceled after Westminster-based Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. was acquired by BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C.

Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. had planned to develop the Farmers Supply Co. property as a major corporate complex, converting the 1-acre site into 2 1/2 stories of parking and three levels of office space.

Westminster officials had hoped the development would help overcome the loss of Mather's, a department store that closed in 1996 after 106 years, and the post office. Some downtown merchants say they have lost business as a result of the loss of the larger businesses.

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