Zoning plan draws protest

Employment campus eyed on trailer park's acreage

`Don't want our homes taken'

Residents speak out at county board meeting

July 21, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Residents of a trailer park south of Mount Airy - upset that their community is being eyed for a possible employment campus zone - filled the meeting room of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission yesterday to voice their opposition.

It was not supposed to be a public hearing, merely a work session for county planning staff to outline proposals for a new Mount Airy and Environs Community Comprehensive Plan.

But planning commission Chairman Edward M. Beard allowed the residents to speak and began the meeting early, as the room began to fill early with nearly 100 Carroll County residents. He said the commission won't make decisions until after an advertised public hearing.

Most of the speakers were from Pheasant Ridge Mobile Home Estates, south of Baltimore National Pike and Old Frederick Road (Route 144), north of the Howard County line. There were shouted complaints from the crowd that they were told nothing, that they would be thrown out if the land were rezoned, and that they were being treated like "trailer trash."

The residents own their homes - but not the land - and space for a mobile home is hard to find, they said. A few said they had all of their money tied up in their homes.

"You have more rights if you buy a used car," said Margie Garey of the 7700 block of Walnut Lane, who works in Washington and whose husband is handicapped. "Half the people in the trailer park are handicapped [or] single mothers."

"Maybe they thought there would not be as much resistance" to the employment campus, said Donna Jessee, who owns one of six homes in the 4100 block of Old National Pike near the trailer park.

"We came here [to] let you know we are serious about this. We don't want our homes taken away," she said, calling the area a "close-knit community."

Two plans are being drafted as guides for the next 10 to 30 years, said Scott Graf, a county planner. One map uses the town's projected future boundary with possible annexations. A larger map covers land outside of the town limits, including the trailer park and a nursing home to the south.

The mobile home park comprises about 98 acres in two adjoining parcels, which are owned by companies with the same address in Chicago. Graf said the companies have not applied for new zoning.

The county wants to encourage the employment campuses, Graf said, but they require at least 50 acres near roads and other services. The land recommended for the campus totals about 200 acres, including the trailer park, a few homes, a nursing home and a small farm. Graf said the property is the right size, relatively undeveloped and close to Interstate 70.

But in addition to applying for rezoning, the owner also would have to find adequate water resources before development, planners said.

Arthur "Skip" Colvin of the 4100 block of Baltimore National Pike, who owns property in the designated area, said, "There is no water under this land. If the county proposes this, it could get us all in the same kind of quagmire."

The planning commission will meet again at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 to discuss the plan for Mount Airy and a separate plan for Finksburg. The Finksburg plan proposes an employment campus zone on land that includes a trailer park; it also faces opposition.

Beard said that the residents may attend the next work session, but officials will not take comments because it is not a public hearing.

When the plan is finalized and adopted by the planning commission, he said, there will be a 60-day review period and public hearings before a vote. Afterward, the plan would be sent on to the county commissioners for the same process.

The Carroll County commissioners adopted the new employment campus zone in April - and the county hopes to put one in each of its eight incorporated municipalities, as well as in Finksburg, said Steven C. Horn, Carroll's planning director.

The zoning for mixed commercial and light-industrial development is intended to attract higher-paying jobs to the county.

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