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State program will open up funding for Sykesville and Mount Airy

Jason and Melanie Martindale walk with their daughters Megan, 8, and Jessie, 5, along Main Street in downtown Mount Airy Saturday.
Jason and Melanie Martindale walk with their daughters Megan, 8, and Jessie, 5, along Main Street in downtown Mount Airy Saturday.(DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Sykesville and Mount Airy are the two most recent towns in Carroll to join a state initiative which serves to align local governments with state governments for revitalization.

Sustainable Community designations help to prioritize what is most important to local governments, said Kevin Baynes, the director of the Community Legacy Program at the Department of Housing and Community Development. The state is able to help monetarily with communities trying to revitalize their Main Streets, or become more environmentally friendly, for example.

"It just provides the bull's-eye and then the money ... is the darts," Baynes said.

Both Sykesville and Mount Airy applied for the program, and were accepted to become a sustainable community.

Westminster is already designated as a Sustainable Community. For example, Baynes said local businesses can tap into funds by applying for a Neighborhood Business Work loan in order to close the gap in funding, but only if the business is in a sustainable community.

Mount Airy Town Administrator Monika Weierbach said the town's focus for the plan is to continue attracting people and businesses to its Main Street.

"We wanted to keep our downtown and keep our downtown going in the revitalization mode right now," Weierbach said.

Last weekend continued Mount Airy's revitalization efforts with their Sip, Shop and Stroll program, along with the town's Christmas tree lighting ceremony and parade. Shop, Sip and Stroll involved several businesses along Main Street, who served refreshments, strolling musicians and food. As people discovered what each business was serving, they filled out a card, which was then submitted for the chance to win a gift card.

Sip, Shop and Stroll assists in getting people downtown and shopping local, said Melissa Hoyle, the community development coordinator for the town of Mount Airy.

Baynes said the state provides a tax credit for hiring new employees if the business is in a designated community. Part of this is to help encourage small businesses to open on Main Street, in order to bring people to the community.

"I think a lot of small towns about our size and a little bigger are trying to get into the program so they have a lifeline to the state," Weierbach said.

A review team of five state departments looks at applications in order to assist in a wide array of ways. The Departments of Housing and Community Development, Planning, Natural Resources, Environment, and Business and Economic Development look at applications from towns and determine whether they will be designated as sustainable communities.

"It's not a pass-fail," Baynes said. "We're trying to work with anyone who would like to have this resource."

Ivy Wells, the Main Street Manager of Sykesville, said the town applied in order to receive state funding from the Community Legacy Program, which is a grant program the town previously received funds from. This year, Sykesville is focusing on becoming more environmentally friendly, Wells said.

"Specifically for Main Street, we are going to implement raising money for new trash cans that also include recycling. Right now there's no recycling receptacles on Main Street at all," Wells said.

The town has also converted the Little Sykes Railway for solar power, added a community garden, and is looking to raise money for bike racks, Wells said.

Baynes said the intention of the program is to refresh the application every five years, because oftentimes towns complete the tasks they set out to fulfill in their original application.

"We want it to be a fluid conversation between the local government wants, and how the state and county government can help," Baynes said.

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