Panel backs plan to turn 3M plant into business hub

Site would house stores in front, offices in back

`Support this project'

April 18, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County planning commission approved yesterday a Towson corporation's plan to transform the vacant 3M plant, next to the Westminster state police barracks on Route 140, into a business center.

The 75,000-square-foot building will be transformed into a business center called Westminster Gateway. When renovations are complete, the building will house retail stores in the front and manufacturing and business offices in the rear, according to Lawrence G. Reif, a partner with the building's owner, Continental Realty Corp. of Towson.

The company had started renovating the building, anticipating final site approval by the planning panel. It has signed leases from Regal Bank, Heritage Automotive and Gardiners Furniture, and its representatives say they have spoken with several national retailers.

For 50 years, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, or 3M, made billboards and vinyl signs at the plant. It closed in 1997 after 3M eliminated its advertising division.

The plant was vacant for a year before it was purchased for $2 million by Continental Realty. The 25-acre site is zoned for industrial use. The county Board of Zoning Appeals permitted the owner in December to transform the property into a business center.

"We tried to market it as an industrial site, but we recognize it is more highly marketable as a commercial or retail site, and so we do support this project," county Economic Development Director Jack T. Lyburn told the five-member planning panel yesterday. He had initially objected to the loss of industrial land.

The 3M property was the second industrial site to be approved for commercial use by the planning commission yesterday. The panel also gave the owners of two adjacent parcels, at Route 140 and Hemlock Lane, permission to combine the properties and build a two-story, 19,500-square-foot retail building. Named Tara Professional Center, it will house at least two stores or office suites.

The planning panel's action yesterday followed two hearings before the county Board of Zoning Appeals, which granted the owners of the two parcels permission to develop a business center.

County planners praised the owners of the 3M site and adjoining Tara Professional Center for agreeing to consolidate six access points to Route 140 to two, including one entrance that will serve both sites. The planners had also suggested the developers of the two business centers build a service lane from the Westminster state police barracks west to Leidy Road and Hemlock Lane, but state officials objected because, they said, emergency vehicles might be hindered by traffic on the proposed road.

The planning panel took issue with the state's position and will send a letter to the State Highway Administration, urging the agency to reconsider its decision. For years, state officials have asked county planners to limit access to Route 140 and alleviate traffic congestion on the highway.

The planning commission also approved yesterday Westminster Church of Christ Inc.'s plans to build a 6,400-square-foot church north of Westminster city limits, on the east side of Route 97 south of Bachman's Valley Road. The 5-acre site is cropland.

In other business, the planning commission recommended that the county commissioners allow Westminster to annex 44 acres of agricultural land along Route 97 across from Kalten Road, north of Marada and the West Branch Trade Center, and rezone it for industrial use.

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