Industrial park plan approved by 1 vote

Residents, 2 board members concerned about safety, traffic

Objections to Route 97 entrances

Proposals for mulch operation, retirement community pass

Carroll County

October 20, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission split its vote yesterday on a preliminary plan for a Woodbine industrial park but was unanimous in its approval of a retirement community in Westminster and its endorsement of a landscaping company's proposal to start a mulch operation at a closed county landfill.

Edward M. Beard, chairman of the seven-member commission, voted "yes" to break the tie on the preliminary site plan for South Carroll Gateway Industrial Park to be built on a 27-acre property along Route 97, near the Howard county line.

Approval is contingent on the developer building two entrances to Route 97 at opposite ends of the property and meeting requirements set by the State Highway Administration. The state likely will seek improvements to the sight distance and grading, as well as additional turn lanes, officials said.

"Hopefully, these requirements will make the road safer," said Bruce Waldron, a coordinator with the county's Bureau of Development Review.

Two planning commissioners and several residents disagreed.

"The second access increases the chances for accidents," said Melvin E. Baile Jr., a planning commissioner who voted against the plan. "One more entrance onto 97 is bad enough, and this second one is geographically challenging. I am concerned with the impact on through-traffic."

His commission colleague, Michael R. Guerin, said traffic is already bad on the winding segment of the highway.

"We all want this to go through, but it has to be safe," Guerin said.

Gayle Glass, who lives across the highway from the site, said neighbors are already dealing with the noise, smell and problems from heavy truck traffic from an asphalt operation near the proposed industrial park.

Many of the residents protested at a lengthy zoning hearing that resulted in approval of the project earlier this year. Residents have hired an attorney and plan to appeal that decision.

"We know something is going to go there, but it is up to the county to make it safe for residents," Glass said. "This is not just about money and business. It is about our lives."

Another asphalt manufacturer is interested in leasing as many as five of the 10 lots in the industrial park. A traffic study showed the daily volume of trucks could reach 300, residents said.

While the board was aware of residents' concerns, Beard said, "We have to consider the plan." The design meets state and county requirements, he said.

"The developer worked in good faith to improve safety," said planning commission member Wayne B. Schuster, who voted to approve the plan.

The commission voiced no objections to the site plan for Westminster Mews, two three-story buildings with about 160 rental units for assisted and independent living, to be built near TownMall of Westminster. Residency would be limited to people age 62 and older.

"This project has been in the review process for four years, and the staff is highly confident that this will be a fine project," said Steve Ford of the county's development review staff.

Once construction begins, the city of Westminster will annex the 8-acre site at Gorsuch Road and Center Street. The city has approved the plan and the annexation but is awaiting construction.

"Westminster will not take this project into the city until it is vested, with footers in the ground," said Clark Schaffer, attorney for Westminster Development Associates. "To move forward, we need county approval."

Schuster called the project "well-designed and needed." The developer listed several planned amenities for residents, including a private ambulance service to diminish demand on the city's volunteer fire company.

In other business, the commission will allow Green-Cycle Industries to lease 30 acres for a mulch business at Hoods Mill Landfill in Woodbine. The Eldersburg company will begin gathering and storing materials, such as leaves, grass clippings and tree trimmings this fall in preparation for a spring opening. The county opens Hoods Mill on Saturdays and only for South Carroll residents.

John Hughes, a partner in Green-Cycle, said he would install a fence and implement measures to control erosion and sediment.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," said Vinnie Legge, county recycling manager.

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