When the county asked the Town of Hampstead about its request to rezone the former North Carroll High School, town staff said the petition has not yet been scheduled to go before the Planning Commission.
The petition to rezone the school so it could be leased for a wider variety of uses was filed more than four months ago, on Oct. 25, 2018.
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners decided March 7 to follow up with the town to remind the staff that the county can be used as a resource — and that prolonging the rezoning of the former school could affect the FY2020 budget and beyond.
“By them not making a decision or working towards something, is it going to affect our resources and budget and funding for anything we need to do in North Carroll, in any decision coming up?” asked Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5.
His colleagues said they feared yes.
Questions about funding for the former school property — which only holds the Carroll County Sheriff’s Training Academy and has been likened to the Empire State Building staying open to operate a 7-Eleven out of the first floor — have ramped up since Carroll County Director of Management and Budget Ted Zaleski sent a letter to the board last fall stating: “We can’t afford this building.”
North Carroll High School was one of the three Carroll County public schools closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, and although the BOCC determined the fate of two of the buildings in 2018 — New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary schools — they have heavily debated what’s next for North Carroll.
District 2 Commissioner Richard Weaver represents Hampstead, however, and said that he did not believe waiting for the “appropriate time” to rezone the former school — possibly this April — would be a problem.
He has held town hall meetings and worked with his constituents on ideas for putting a charter school, NextGen 911 training facility, or community center at the location to avoid future demolition and keep it as an option for school use in the future.
“[The town] said they’re in the process right now of reviewing this,” he said. “They have quite a few issues over there, if you're not aware.”
The issues Hampstead has been dealing with include the controversial 250-home Hampstead Overlook development.
But ignoring the request to rezone the school property — which would allow a wider variety of uses so it could be leased out now that it is no longer a school — is disrespectful, according to Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3.
“They haven't even put it on their agenda yet,” he said. “That’s saying to us, ‘We don't care what you want, we’re not doing it.’ I don’t like it.
“What happens at the end, as we discussed this morning in the budget [overview] when the three years runs out and we don't have any more money to maintain that building?” Frazier asked. “Are we just going to tear it down? Because it has to be rezoned and that's it — ‘cause that's our alternative.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, agreed that four months was too long for no update on the rezoning.
“I think its just a matter of respect really,” he said. “That's how I really see it. We asked them to do it when?”
Frazier said that from his experience in planning commissions, he could say the town's decision to keep the petition off the schedule for four months was not an accident.
“I’ve been in the planning commission for the City of Westminster, ex-officio here at the county,” he said. “It doesn’t take five or six months to get something on the agenda to get them to talk about it, look it over.
“It’s blatant that they’re stalling on this for whatever reason, and it’s a slap in the face to the county,” Frazier said. “They want cooperation from us, they want this, they want that — but they aren't in any hurry to help us out. That's the way I look at it.”
Tammi Ledley, Hampstead’s town manager, told the Times on Friday: “We been working with the county; it’s an ongoing process. I don't have anything more to say than that.”