Westminster annexation rules sought

May 28, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

With five properties annexed in the past year - and two pending - two Westminster City Council members want to set up standards that regulate annexations.

Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro, who will head a committee with Councilman Robert P. Wack, said they would offer recommendations over the next two months so the city could adopt a resolution for these standards by the end of the summer.

"We don't want to keep reacting to things coming," Pecoraro said. "We want a plan to figure out how this will fit into our vision of the city. Certain annexations are clearly in our interest, and others don't make sense."

Among Carroll County's eight municipalities, other than two small properties in Hampstead, only Westminster has annexed land recently, county planner Scott Graf said. The introduction of three more annexation petitions last week prompted the City Council to create the special committee.

"Generally, the land values in the south and center of the county haven't been very conducive to agricultural preservation," Graf said. "A lot of farmers find it more beneficial to hold out, to redevelop part of the farm rather than sell easements."

But as the county moves toward the goal of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland, officials said there is a conflict between those who favor annexation and those who prefer agricultural preservation.

More residential development on annexed property requires additional water and sewer resources, the county commissioners have stressed.

"They can annex all the property they want, but if they can't find the water, they can't build the houses on it," Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said.

In past years, properties outside the city depended on Westminster for water and sewer without contributing to the city's tax base, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works.

With finite water resources, that had to stop, Beyard said.

Two of the annexations introduced last week are small residential lots, which could help fill in the city's existing boundaries, Pecoraro said.

The third property, the 45-acre Mills land near Cranberry Elementary School could become more of an issue. Largely zoned for conservation and some residential use, the Mills family and a developer want 40 of those acres for business development, perhaps a medical campus, Pecoraro said.

"This issue of zoning will be a major issue because it seems to be in conflict with the future plans for the property," Beyard said. "It isn't going to be an immediate response."

As those annexations were proposed, a Westminster area farm joined the county's agricultural preservation program last week.

Daniel E. Roop Jr. and his sister, Rebecca A. Roop Stem, own a farm of almost 150 acres on Ridge and Chapel roads.

"I can look around and see houses surrounding me," Roop said. "We're trying to stop that."

"The farm has been in our family for over 100 years," Stem added. "We want to keep it as a working, family farm."

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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