Town wants sewer lines phased in

County plans service for distribution center of Sweetheart Cup

Officials clash on issue

Opponents fear project would tax capacity of treatment plant

March 02, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Hampstead officials are asking the county to phase in sewer lines for major construction by Sweetheart Cup Co. outside town limits until more information is available on the impact of the project.

Hampstead strongly objected to one revision in the county's water and sewer master plan that would move 141 acres of industrial land into a planned sewer service area, which would benefit the company. The site would be served by the same county sewer treatment plant that the town uses.

A public hearing on that revision and eight others became a sparring match yesterday between the commissioners and the town.

Town officials called the proposal a concession to Sweetheart Cup. The company is building a 1-million-square-foot distribution center, the largest commercial building in the state, on the property at Route 30 near Houcksville Road and is negotiating for additional public sewer capacity.

"It's like Sweetheart Cup gets to cut to the front of the line," said Kenneth Decker, town manager. "We don't know enough about the potential impact of 141 acres of industrial capacity."

The town asked the county to phase in the sewer lines over the next several years, until the town can bring its industrial development on line.

"The company would have no interest in doing this unless it wants to expand, possibly for a manufacturing operation," said Decker. "The county is opening the door for them, and we want to know the impact. It smells like a fix is in. I can't believe the company has not asked about public sewer."

Hampstead wants details of the county's negotiations with Sweetheart, including plans for future development of the site, all of which is outside the town's corporate limits.

"Why is it necessary to give away or allocate the remaining industrial capacity for the second parcel on this site, when there is no plan for its use under consideration?" Mayor Christopher M. Nevin asked Monday in a letter to the commissioners. "It would appear more prudent to allocate additional capacity for the undeveloped parcel at the time a new site plan is submitted for approval and more is known about the potential use."

Rumors abound that the company plans to move its manufacturing operations to Hampstead, although county officials have seen no such plans.

"We are still in the talking stage as far as the manufacturing plant is concerned," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "How can we tell you something we don't know?"

The county Department of Planning recommended extending the sewer lines to the site because "the manufacturing firm provides the county with an important opportunity for economic development." The distribution center would employ more than 100 people, most of whom work for the company in Owings Mills.

Phasing in the allocation could give the county a bargaining chip, Decker said. Accommodations for Sweetheart could mean insufficient sewer capacity at the county-owned treatment plant for town projects, such as North Carroll Industrial Park, Decker said.

In his letter, Nevin said, "It appears an accommodation is being made for Sweetheart Cup at the expense of the citizens of the town and surrounding area who will be impacted by this project."

The plant can treat 900,000 gallons daily and can handle the projected 2,500 gallons the warehouse would generate each day, officials said. But a manufacturing plant would require treatment of about 50,000 gallons a day, according to county estimates.

The treatment plant has about 45,000 gallons reserved for daily industrial use. Most of the daily flow it processes is from residential use.

Dell chided the town, saying that he was irritated by "the attack on the commissioners." He stressed that the county owns the plant and decides how to allocate use.

Decker said, "You can't give this allocation without taking it away from someone else. The town bears all the impact of Sweetheart's development and gets not a nickel. The impact to us is potentially profound."

Dell agreed that there should be written guarantees, but he had little patience for the town's complaint.

"You have no tax revenues, because the town refused to annex this property," Dell said.

Sweetheart Cup never requested annexation into Hampstead, town officials said. Had it been within town limits, the company would have paid municipal property taxes and been subject to town zoning regulations.

"We would have been more demanding of a new facility than the county has been," Decker said. "I don't think Sweetheart wanted to deal with us."

Hampstead also wants assurances from the company concerning land for a bypass to alleviate congestion on the town's Main Street.

"All we have now are verbal assurances from Jack Lyburn," said Decker, referring to the county director of economic development. "We really require better communication and information before the county grants this."

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said she has been assured a bypass is in Sweetheart Cup's plans.

"The picture you are painting is not showing Sweetheart Cup as a good neighbor," she said. "I know they will come through."

The record will remain open for about two weeks, allowing time for written comment on the amendments. The commissioners will then decide whether to adopt the changes, based on staff recommendations. The state has final authority on water and sewer plans.

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