At least 70 people showed up to the South Carroll Senior and Community Center on Tuesday morning to talk about growth, safety, zoning, infrastructure and traffic at Ed Rothstein’s Town Hall meeting.
And the District 5 commissioner fielded questions from locals using his previous experience in special education, economic development and the military.
“Being your commissioner, the intent is to give you the confidence in me, that I am going to serve you the right way,” Rothstein said. “This is not about campaigning; this is not about politics; this is about service, 30-plus years of service.
“I want to extend that service and that’s why I'm standing up here, and that's why I need you to share with me your thoughts to ensure that you have the best confidence in me, and what I can provide in moving forward,” he said.
He said that when he first moved to Sykesville 12 years ago, he was changing stations from Colorado to Fort Meade. Rothstein came for a weekend to look at houses — found a house on Saturday, looked at it Sunday and decided to buy it on Monday.
The commissioner said what drew him to the area is the people, the values and priorities.
“The reason I bought that house was because of my neighbors,” Rothstein said, “because of the folks that were in that house, because of the kids surrounding that community. Those are the ones that convinced me, literally within a day. It was that easy.
“That was quality of life,” he said. “That’s what I appreciate most about Carroll County and that’s why I want to continue to stay here in Carroll County … and keep that quality of life.”
Residents asked Rothstein about zoning that morning, with a few questions about recent news articles on first draft of comprehensive rezoning for commercial, industrial and employment campus zones and an expansion in where medical cannabis could be allowed.
Planning Director Lynda Eisenberg told the crowd that dates have been set for the meetings on comprehensive rezoning. The first meeting will take place 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at the County Office Building in Westminster. The second meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. the following day, March 27, at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center in Eldersburg.
“If the county wants to get our input on planning and zoning, why is it that planning and zoning always schedules their meetings when people are at work or just getting off?” asked local resident Grant Tait. “Why don’t they do it at a time that's convenient for the people?”
Rothstein said it was a good question, and something that is being taken into consideration — even with the Town Hall meeting being scheduled at both 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. to reach more diverse audiences.
Safety and drugs
Also at the meeting was Maj. Richard Hart from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, who compiled data on crime and drug use in Sykesville and Eldersburg for the meeting.
When he stood before the crowd Tuesday, he said Carroll County is the safest county in the state — but that although crime is low, retail thefts are up, especially in Westminster and the Md. 26 corridor by large stores like Walmart and Martin’s.
“Thefts from automobiles, the majority of them are people who don't lock their cars,” he explained. “We could cut auto thefts in half if we just lock our doors.”
But property crime in Carroll is definitely driven by the drug issue, he said.
In 2018 there were 513 overdoses countywide, explained Hart — with 217 from heroin, and 71 which were fatal.
In southern Carroll there were 78 overdoses, 9 of which were fatal.
“The number is staggering,” said Hart. “We’ve arrested a lot of folks; we are doing what we can. We work very closely with allied resources, the State’s Attorney’s Office, health departments, to try to figure out a way to fix this drug problem. It’s nationwide.”
Some questions were about law enforcement as it pertains to traffic.
Bartholow Road resident Earlene Horsey said cops needed to monitor speeding by Liberty High School when classes are dismissed.
“You said they have specific places where cops see speeding,” she said to the major. “I live on Bartholow by Liberty High School. I'm sorry if anybody’s kids go there, but when they get out [of class], you [deputies] gotta go there — because if a child or anybody stepped out [into the road], they are they going to get hit.”
Hart said that the new school resource officer program across the county’s high schools will reinforce that effort. Part of the SRO’s duties is to keep an eye on compliance with traffic regulations — especially during school dismissal times.
“The school is aware of it too,” he said. “Hopefully that's mitigated soon because our deputies have always been out there, but now we have someone dedicated right there.”
Residents from the Homeland Condominiums also came to talk about their concerns with traffic.
Groups from the age-restricted condos have gone to public hearings regarding the Freedom Plan and Town Halls hosted by former District 5 Commissioner Doug Howard with concerns about development adjacent to the property, stormwater management, and traffic on Liberty Road — which makes it difficult to make a left turn at the intersection.
“For those of us who live in Homeland, it’s very difficult for us to get out of our community,” asked Toni Giordano. "Can you look at that area?”
Rothstein said he will add the concerns to the agenda for his meeting with representatives from the Maryland Department of Transportation and the State Highway Administration next week.
Homeland resident Linda Coyne, who also expressed her concerns at previous meetings, said she forwarded an email to the new commissioner about her requests to SHA about adding a traffic light to Liberty Road, and that she feels hopeful.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” she told the Times. “We have worked with him before, and he has been very responsive.”
George Barnhart, who lives right off Bennett Road in Eldersburg, also said he appreciates what Rothstein is doing.
“He could have had a whole meeting on just traffic,” Barnhart said. “I think he’s a great commissioner. So far he’s been great.”
The District 5 commissioner discussed SHA projects on the state roads in Carroll, as well as some stormwater management projects and new development.
Many of the questions involved items mentioned in Rothstein’s newsletter, which went out for the first time on Feb. 15.
“How do we justify two hotels in Eldersburg?” asked Ruth Ann Rousey, who referred to the 125-room Candlewood Suites planned at Eldersburg Station and the smaller hotel planned for Warfield at Historic Sykesville.
“These are different plans,” Rothstein said. “Two different developers, two different opportunities for those developers to have appropriate zoning for hotels.”
He said the market analysis done by the developer at Eldersburg Station found the size would be suitable for the area.
“The Warfield community’s analysis has been done by the developer,” he said. “They are now working with a hotel group or someone who wants to build a hotel, and it’s that individual or that team that’s going to do the analysis on whether a hotel would be suitable to be built there or not.
“The last thing you want to do is build two hotels and have them be empty, from a business perspective,” he said.
Candlewood Suites will be good for people with visiting family members, he said, and the one at Warfield will be good for the business park community in the multi-use development.