The Freedom Comprehensive Community Plan is headed to a public hearing Wednesday, July 11, after the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of County Commissioners accepted the most recent iteration of the 2018 draft.
The public hearing is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Liberty High School auditorium, 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg.
Residents in the Freedom Area have expressed differing views on changes in the plan, with many stating they are against changes to the area that will be made to accommodate future growth.
Some of those residents live at the Homeland Condominiums, a 55-plus community in Eldersburg, located at the foot of a 20-foot slope below Luers Avenue.
The Luers Avenue property is currently zoned Neighborhood Retail Business, but on the 2018 Future Land Use map the property’s land use designation will change to one accommodating high commercial activity.
“If the new rezoning is approved, high density commercial development will negatively impact the quality of our daily lives in many ways including jeopardizing Homeland residents' safety, destroying the natural resources of trees, shrubs and grasses that protect our community from storm water run-off, and decreasing the value of homes we worked hard to afford,” wrote one resident, Linda Coyne, in a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 6.
Coyne has lived in the community for almost 13 years, she said Thursday, and put together a petition in survey this past summer that she said garnered 67 signatures. There are 70 homes on the property.
“Our peaceful community will no longer be a desirable place to live!” she wrote. “Forty of the 70 residential units including my home directly face the Luers Avenue property and 1503 Liberty Road. If this land is developed as proposed, we will be staring at large commercial box buildings, stark concrete retaining walls, large asphalt parking lots, and harsh commercial lighting which will infiltrate our living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms.”
Other residents who live in the back section of the community facing the Luers property are concerned about stormwater management. Bert Rushing, a resident who has lived at 1595 Homeland Drive for nine years, said the storm that devastated Ellicott City also ravaged her backyard.
“This time it was exceptionally bad,” Rushing said of the May 27 storm this Thursday, “but we think about Ellicott City, how they say, ‘Oh the land was taken up,’ and everything, and the flooding is coming down hill.
“I don’t want to be mean to anybody in any way,” she said, “but I do want it to come to everybody’s attention that we are back here, and the ground there is higher than we are. And [the water is] going to run downhill, so we have to make sure that we are in agreement with the building what they’re going to do to protect us.”
Rushing said higher density development decreasing the impervious surface for runwater could cause big problems for the 40 homes on the side of Homeland Condos that faces the slope.
The developer and owner of the Luers property, Louis Mangione, is behind the change, which his attorney proposed in February 2017. Hopes are to develop the 15.56-acre property into a shopping center that would potentially be anchored by a Lidl grocery store.
Pat Snead, vice president of the Homeland community board, said residents are concerned for myriad reasons, but that some are more concerned than others — and there are residents who think the land use change could be a good idea.
“I will say some of the residents here think it would be good because I think they feel … when developers come into areas, the county looks for the developers to maybe take over putting in a road or doing different things like that,” she said, “which I'm sure saves the county money. There are some residents here who think there may be an advantage to our community having that built up there, having the benefit of some of the agreements Mr. Mangione would have with the county.”
But those who are worried are concerned the developer can make promises he wouldn’t have to keep, she said.
“There’s no guarantees ever,” Snead said. “You could say you're gonna do one thing and something could change and go down. … There are definitely some residents who think it would be good, and there are others concerned with the zoning and the Freedom Plan in general. We are all so anxious to see what that final plan is going to look like for our area.”
From the county’s perspective however, the number of people who support or are against the development is muddied, according to Snead. Board members have spoken to the county on behalf of the community as a whole rather than as individuals in the past, she said.
Laura Bavetta of the county’s Planning Department said the two sides seem to be split evenly.
“It’s interesting because half of the residents are for it and half are against it,” Bavetta said. “I’m not sure if that's going to be brought up at the public hearing or not.”
The change to the Luers property is one of a few that county commissioners and planners have been discussing throughout he development of the new Freedom Plan.
The full Freedom Plan document, found at www.freedomareaplan.org, also includes changes to the plan’s vision statement, clarified definitions for land use designations, and more information on potential future changes to water and sewer services as the area continues to grow.
Once the public hearing is over, the Planning Commission will meet again to discuss the plan on July 18 and the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing before the 90-day period before adoption begins.
If you go
What: Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan public hearing
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 11
Where: Liberty High School auditorium, 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg
Citizens can comment by: sending written correspondence to Carroll County Department of Planning, 225 North Center St., Westminster, MD 21157; completing the Carroll County Government comment/question form available on the website; or emailing the Planning and Zoning Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments must be received by the close of the public hearing on July 11.