Westminster leaders hold meeting to discuss plans for annexation

Several tracts `likely' or `possible' additions

September 23, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

From the traffic jams to the parking problems, the new housing developments to the shopping centers, it's obvious to anyone who visits Westminster that the city is growing.

The city's schools, quality of life and small-town charm have inspired thousands of people to move here over the years, causing Westminster's population to grow by 28 percent to 16,731 people during the past decade, according to the recent census. Since 1967, Westminster has grown from three-fourths of a square mile to 5.6 square miles, as 36 annexations have added land to the city.

"Growth is going to happen," said Westminster Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro. "The question is, how are we going to manage growth?"

Westminster Mayor Kevin Dayhoff and the Common Council sought to answer that question yesterday at a daylong workshop designed to explore the issues of annexation and growth while trying to prevent the city from adding to the sprawl that has overtaken other parts of Carroll County.

"Annexation is a strategic process," said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planing and public works. "You not only deal with the present, you have to look to the future."

The mayor and council agreed that they wanted to use the city's comprehensive plan from 1985 as a "geographical footprint" for determining the city's eventual size. On the map, Westminster's future corporate limits generally follow the planned water and sewer service area for the city. More than half of the water and sewer service provided by Westminster goes outside city limits.

Annexations of two properties are pending in Westminster -- an 8.5-acre parcel off Center Street owned by the county that is being developed into a $20 million assisted-living complex for seniors; and 92.8 acres known as the Roop's Mill property near Route 140 and Meadowridge Road at the western tip of the city zoned for residential use.

Also at yesterday's meeting, Beyard outlined a number of "likely" and "possible" annexations. Those properties include:

A 172-acre parcel at Krider's Church and Meadow Branch roads, zoned residential and known as the Emmert property.

A 200-acre parcel known as the Beacham property near Avondale and Stone Chapel roads, zoned industrial.

The Wheeler property -- a 10-acre parcel between John Street and Route 27, zoned for business and industry.

A 10-acre parcel at Route 140 and Englar Road.

The Schaeffer property, a parcel of more than 70 acres at Old Bachmans Valley and Lemmon roads, zoned for industry.

Beyard mentioned a number of target areas for annexation, including the area north of Air Business Center, the area near the Random House facility and the area east of Westminster Marketplace, the location of the new Home Depot shopping center off Route 140.

The council discussed the type of property they most wished to annex, apparently agreeing that adding land zoned for heavy industrial use was not an option.

"There has to be a balance between quality of life and economic vitality," Councilman Roy L. Chiavacci said, noting that the rural landscape was what drew him to Westminster almost 30 years ago.

Councilman Thomas K. Ferguson pointed out that growth in Westminster should be determined by the city's ability to provide not only water and sewer service but also fire service. Westminster, like the rest of Carroll, has a volunteer fire department.

If the city continues to grow, Ferguson said, a volunteer fire department might no longer be adequate.

"When we talk about growth, we are going to have to soon calculate what it's going to cost to provide career fire service," Ferguson said.

Council President Damian L. Halstad said he expected many of the issues mentioned in the meeting to resurface when the council reviewed specific annexations.

"We're looking for a collective vision," he said. "We're just trying to find out where we are and what we want to become."

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