Road issue takes a turn

County pursues alternatives to ease Route 140 traffic

`Can't tie people's land up'

Proposed bypass marked on plans for past 4 decades

Westminster

September 19, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With no money to build a Westminster bypass, the county is looking at alternative roads to relieve congestion on Route 140 and deliberating whether to relinquish land once marked for the proposed highway.

Carroll's planning commission heard arguments yesterday from property owners, who said the bypass plan has tied up their land long enough. With a map showing the road crossing their land, it has been difficult for owners to sell or develop the properties, residents said.

County planners reiterated yesterday that removing the properties from the master plan would spell an end to a bypass the county has envisioned for 40 years.

About 55,000 cars travel Route 140 through Westminster daily and that traffic congestion is expected to worsen as stores and housing developments in the area reach completion.

"The day the state allowed [uncontrolled] access to Route 140, it cast Westminster into the need for a bypass," said Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman of Westminster. "The state should commend this county for its foresight in planning this road."

Cueman, who for 24 years was Carroll's director of planning, noted several studies that addressed the need for a bypass and urged the county to fund research to determine if the road is no longer needed.

"You have three lanes each way on Route 140 now and there's [talk] of additional lanes," Cueman said. "Are you going to force every bit of traffic down 140? With no public transportation, are you going to choke your city?"

Westminster officials also asked the commission to wait.

"Why are you deleting a portion, before you have studied alternatives?" asked Katrina Tucker, city planner.

The state scrapped funding for bypasses around Westminster and Manchester three years ago, saying the projects would encourage sprawl.

Study under way

Westminster has undertaken a $166,000 traffic study that is considering several alternatives to the bypass.

"Today we have land for a corridor that goes around Westminster," said Cueman. "You have only one shot to protect the proposed corridor. Once that is closed, it is gone for good."

The request to remove the land from the master plan was made by James Harris, owner of a 100-acre farm on the outskirts of the city, property that has been included in every bypass option proposed since 1962.

The farm on Brehm Road is not under consideration for the city's alternative routes.

Harris argued that 40 years was more than enough time to decide where the bypass would go and to build it.

"You can't tie people's land up and say they can't use it because you are going to build a road there sometime in 40 years," Harris said.

Cueman agreed that Harris should be compensated, but the county has no funds to pay for rights of way for roads that might never be built, officials said.

`It has been 40 years'

"It is no good to have a line drawn on a map for a road and then not deal with the property owner," Cueman said.

"The county has to pay the price for what is important," he said.

Planning commission member Ed Wheatley added, "It has been 40 years, and nothing has been done. These people have been held hostage and have not had the right to do anything with their land."

The record will remain open for 10 days. The commission will review comments and is expected to make a decision on Harris' petition next month.

Their recommendation will go to the county commissioners, who have final authority on land use.

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