Officials ask for voice in development

Commissioners urged to inform the town of building plans

`What's the vision?'

Sweetheart facility, other projects among concerns discussed

January 19, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

In a long-awaited summit last night, Hampstead officials faced the three county commissioners to ask for more say in the development sprouting at both ends of town.

Large projects, such as a 1.034-million-square-foot Sweetheart Cup Co. warehouse south of town and a Wal-Mart and Burger King north of Hampstead, are outside the town's borders -- and outside the jurisdiction of the Town Council.

"What's the overall vision for our area?" Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin asked the commissioners. Nevin and Town Councilman Stephen Holland said they want county officials to inform them earlier in the development process.

Commissioner President Julia Walsh Gouge said she and her colleagues are concerned about the lack of communication with the town and that they would direct county officials to relay information about development to council members and the mayor.

"Many times, information has not been passed along," Gouge told town officials. "That is as much of concern to us as to you."

The meeting last night was scheduled to take place a month ago, and Nevin said he had been trying to schedule such a session since summer. The meeting last month was canceled after town officials learned that only one commissioner, Gouge, would be able to attend.

The cancellation occurred at the last minute, and Gouge showed up at the assigned meeting time and place, where she and Nevin had an informal discussion before a handful of residents.

Town officials say they have felt left out of the economic development process, especially in the Sweetheart Cup deal, which was arranged by Jack Lyburn, the county's director of economic development, and the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Hampstead officials met in closed session at least once with Lyburn and Sweetheart Cup representatives, but they complained that the opportunity occurred too late, and their concerns about traffic and aesthetics were ignored.

The company has offered concessions, such as a berm -- a landscaped hill -- along Houcksville Road to hide part of the warehouse, which will be the largest industrial building in the state when it's done.

Town officials also have said the county did not give Postal Service officials the information that might have led to moving the new post office to the former site of Hampstead Elementary School. Officials said the county wanted to push the North Carroll Business Park on Route 482. A post office would boost the planned business park and attract tenants, said Holland.

Gouge has said the county presented a case for the school site but left the decision to postal officials. A real estate specialist for the Postal Service said the site presented numerous obstacles, and that the location at Black Rock and Lower Beckleysville roads is more appropriate.

The school, which has been used for offices and storage since closing in the early 1990s, is on Main Street. County and town officials would like to see the facade of the building remain if the building is remodeled.

Other issues the council planned to seek clarification on included: potential expansion of the Sweetheart Cup facility; plans for developing North Carroll Business Park; and issues that have arisen along Hampstead's border, including water, the Houcksville Road bridge and nearby commercial properties.

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