Carroll County Times

Taneytown City Council explores options for old creamery building

TANEYTOWN - Still bearing the drawing of a Grim Reaper, the building's red-brick darkened from a coat of dirt, the former Taneytown Creamery turned haunted house sits without use on 5 W. Warehouse Alley.
Guarded by a fence and a "no trespassing" sign, it remains vacant.
Still stained with fake blood, the deteriorating building has been a point of oscillation among Taneytown city officials in recent years.
The building could be renovated or torn down. It could become a community center or a new spot for city hall.
The city could remain the landlord of the property at 5 W. Warehouse Alley. Or it could put it up for sale.
While its fate is still up in the air, the Taneytown City Council is yet again weighing options for the building and its land, comprising a 0.84 acre lot. At its July 8 meeting, the council approved continuing its efforts to receive a $200,000 grant to demolish the old structure (reports place it as built as early as 1897 or as late as after 1910).
"As long as that albatross of a building sits there," Councilman Carl Ebaugh said, "we've got to get that down."
"It's an eyesore," Councilman Richard Hess Jr. said in agreement. "It's a danger; it's a hazard."
But the council also voted to sell the property, the stipulations of which still need to be hammered out, City Manager Henry Heine Jr. said.
Will the building still come down if a grant is acquired? Will the property be sold to the highest bidder, or rather, will those interested be required to craft a proposal explaining what they plan to do with the spot?
"That property has been a division on our council since day one," Mayor James McCarron Jr. said at the July 8 meeting.

A lengthy,


enigmatic history
The two-story building was the Taneytown Creamery for a spell. That much is known.
The Hanover Creamery owned it, as it did other smaller creameries during the late 19th century, according to a book of the city's history called "A Dam Good Town" by David Shaum, who grew up in Taneytown.
The creamery received milk for the cream to be separated and made into butter. That much is known.
But it's unclear if the processing took place at the Taneytown site, the book states.
In 1927, the Fairfield Western Maryland Dairy bought the business. Yet, its usage and closure date are a mystery.
It's hard to document the history of the old creamery, Councilman Angelo Zambetti said. There are just no comprehensive records available.
At one point, during Halloween season, the building transformed into a haunted house, with scary objects inside and those acting like ghosts or ghouls or perhaps chasing an unsuspecting child with a fake chainsaw. It celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2001, according to a Times article, and Heine said it ceased operations in the early 2000s.
And in 2006, the city acquired the property, one that's lain vacant and continued to deteriorate over the years, Heine said.

Studies have been performed, committees commissioned, in an attempt to find the best usage for the spot and to determine the building's historical significance.
In a May 2009 report, the city asked Westminster-based architect Dean Camlin to prepare a report.
It stated several conclusions, chief among them: "The building is in generally poor shape and will require significant effort to repair and renovate regardless of the new use."
Nearly all the windows are gone or covered. The exterior walls need to be repaired, cleaned and repainted. The roof requires replacement, and new second-floor exit stairs are needed.
Physical repairs aren't the only ones the report suggests. The building could do with the installation of major systems, such as air conditioning, plumbing, automatic fire sprinklers, fire alarms and more.
The total estimated cost for repairs, which the report warned should be taken as a guideline, hovers at more than $1.2 million.
Yet, it's historical. It's in an accessible and central location. The required renovations would have less environmental impact than demolishing the structure and building anew.
"For those reasons," Camlin wrote, "I believe the building is worth preserving."
In the private sector, the building could serve as a nice restaurant or as office space. Or it could be a hub for the public, transforming into a community center with two multipurpose rooms each accommodating more than 200 people.
About a year later, a committee comprising seven people, including city staff, formed to assist the city in determining the creamery building's value.
They took a hard look at it, said Zambetti, who served on the committee, and generally agreed with Camlin. It highlighted a particular sentence of Camlin's findings: "The building is worth preserving."
At one point, the council decided to put it up for sale. And in June 2012, it voted to retract that decision, according to Heine.
"Here we are a little over a year later," he said, "and there's a lot of vacillation."


Years later, still in flux
Several firm decisions have been made.
For one, the city will continue to pursue the demolition grant under the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The pool of money - called the state's Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund - allocates thousands of dollars to communities to accelerate economic development, job production and smart growth.
The city applied in October. Yet, the Maryland Historical Trust deemed the building held sentimental value and should be kept, J. Rodney Little, director and state historic preservation officer, wrote in a letter dated June 10.
It's part of the Taneytown Historic District, which "is significant for its historical role as a regional commercial and residential center from the late 18th century through the early 20th century," a November letter from MHT Preservation Officer Jonathan Sager to the city states.
And the old creamery is located within the city's historical boundary and is "likely a contributing element of that district."
Taneytown has appealed that decision. The city had an employee from a private architectural firm take a look at the location when it initially applied for the grant.
Now, that employee, Richard Wagner, will craft a PowerPoint based on those findings. He will give the presentation about the benefits of demolition in front of MHT officials, according to the city's Economic Development Director Nancy McCormick.
Additionally, McCormick is applying for the Fiscal Year 2014 grant to procure the about $200,000 needed to get rid of the building, as the city missed the allotment of FY13's funds.
Yet, the council hasn't clarified what the vote to sell the property while pursuing the grant at the July 8 meeting really means, Mayor McCarron said. It needs to clearly define if the highest bidder will acquire the property or if potential buyers are required to submit a proposal for the property's usage.
He said he prefers the latter. And he knows what he'd like to see: a bustling community center, which he said should likely fall within the zoning criteria.
"That area could be used as an anchor for downtown," McCarron said, "and a center for the things going on in town."
But these are discussions for the August workshop - and likely many more after that, he said. City officials will need to hammer out the parameters of putting the building up for sale, which is zoned for industrial use.
Zambetti, once a staunch supporter of preserving the old creamery, said he's hit the point where he doesn't have a preferred position anymore.
At the end of the July 8 meeting, McCarron said putting the property up for sale while continuing to pursue the grant is the right decision for the time being.
"'I think we owe ourselves to look at all the options," he said, "and not shut the door on any of them."