Zoning board gives OK to center

Officials contend marketplace won't overtax utilities

May 17, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Eldersburg Marketplace, a proposed $35 million shopping center that has pitted developers against homeowners, won unanimous approval yesterday from the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

In letters and at formal hearings, residents and nearby business owners expressed strong opposition to what they regarded as a poorly planned development. But at yesterday's meeting, there was only one voice of dissent.

"I would urge you to consider the impact this shopping center will have on water and traffic," said Jeff Slack. His wife, Donna, has been a vocal critic of the project but could not attend the meeting yesterday.

The county's most populous area, with 28,000 residents, South Carroll has suffered through water-use restrictions the past three summers. Without new sources of water, this year could bring more of the same. Residents have repeatedly said the Eldersburg center would strain resources that are inadequate.

The marketplace -- which has home-improvement store Home Depot and discount retailer Kohl'sas prospective tenants -- is expected to use about 8,000 gallons of water daily. That amount has been set aside for the development, county public works Director J. Michael Evans told the planning panel.

Traffic studies show the marketplace would generate about 15,000 trips daily. Developer Dixon Harvey, owner of Black Oak Associates, said he is committed to nearly $1 million in road improvements, particularly at three intersections: Routes 26 and 32, South Carroll's main intersection; Route 26 and Georgetown Boulevard; and Route 32 and Londontown Boulevard, which will be the entrance to Eldersburg Marketplace.

"The improvements will improve traffic in the area overall," said Wes Guckert, a traffic expert who testified before the planning panel on Harvey's behalf.

The improvements at Routes 32 and 26, including new left-turn lanes, would leave no room for expansion of the intersection. Leftunimproved, the intersection is expected to fail in four to five years, depending on the pace of development.

To address residents' concerns, the planning commission placed several restrictions on the shopping center. The panel ordered Harvey to install shielded lights directed toward the parking lot and to adopt "fair store hours," a term that usually limits the hours stores may be open. The commission also told Harvey that he would have to win the panel's approval for "any deviation" from the plans that were presented yesterday.

Those plans show five buildings totaling 328,000 square feet. Last month, the county Board of Zoning Appeals approved eight buildings totaling 314,000 square feet of retail space. The planning panel decided that the increase in square footage was not substantial enough to warrant another public hearing.

Eldersburg Marketplace is the second retail complex to be proposed for the 36-acre site. Two years ago, a different developer won zoning approval for The Promenade at Eldersburg, a glitzy center that would have featured a movie complex, upscale anchor stores and trendy restaurants.

Instead of The Promenade's avenue concept, where shoppers would have walked landscaped paths to stores, Eldersburg Marketplace will have a traditional design, with stores fronting the parking lot.

"I'm pleased with what happened," Harvey said of the panel's decision. He hopes to open the center next summer.

In other business, the planning commission decided yesterday to send a letter to state officials, asking them to fill several openings at the local Cooperative Extensioncenter. The agency, which should have 17 employees, has been short-staffed for about a year and has five vacancies.

The planning commission also approved site plans for Benjamin's Claim Condominiums. The complex will be built by Blevin's Hill Inc. on a 2-acre parcel in the Freedom District, on the south side of MacBeth Way near Route 32.

At the request of Bill Powel, the county's director of agricultural preservation, the panel recommended that 326 acres from three farms be included in the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, pending a public hearing before the county commissioners and state Board of Public Works. If approved, the land would be designated as preservation districts and could be considered for permanent preservation through the sale of easements to the state.

The farms recommended for preservation yesterday were:

At 4727 Buffalo Road in Mount Airy, 154 acres owned by P. Michael Larrick and Nancy Ann Larrick.

At 1120 Baust Church Road in Union Bridge, 137.49 acres owned by James W. Stonesifer and Betty E. Stonesifer.

At 5900 Davis Road in Woodbine, 34.65 acres owned by Fred E. Kent and Deborah K. Kent.

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