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Hampstead planning commission, public discuss revised Hampstead Overlook concept plan

Hampstead planning commission, public discuss revised Hampstead Overlook concept plan
Sean Davis, an engineer contracted by Florida Rock Properties Inc. for its proposed Hampstead Overlook development presents the updated concept site plan to the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing for its introduction Wednesday, Dec. 19. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

The Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing for the introduction of a revised Hampstead Overlook concept plan Wednesday, Dec. 19 suggested that the developer, and its engineers, take the updated drawings back to Carroll County government for review.

“Because this concept plan has changed so drastically from the first revision to the second revision I almost think you should go back to the county and get some of our people to take a look at,” said Jim Roark, the Town Council liaison on the planning commission. “I would like to do that.”

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An engineer representing the developer, Florida Rock Properties Inc., compared the original concept site plan — introduced and withdrawn in the summer — to an updated version presented on an easel before the commission and public Dec. 19.

Sean Davis, a principal with Morris & Ritchie Associates in Baltimore, highlighted the key differences. The revised plan includes 255 homes, compared to 271 in the original. The majority of houses were cut from the townhome neighborhood.

The biggest change is the second entrance-exit included in the revised concept plan. The old plan included just one way in and out of the residential development from Houcksville Road. The community, led by self-proclaimed “traffic guy” Karl Mauck, repeatedly raised concerns about the deluge of traffic they thought would flood the road they live on.

Davis employed a green laser pointer to highlight the 1,400 lineal feet of road on the plan that connects the network of roads in the proposed community to Doss Garland Road, which dumps onto Phillips Drive near the traffic circle that connects Md. 30.

In adding an additional entrance and exit, the engineer and developer had to consider another question: Would anxious commuters zoom through the neighborhood roads to evade traffic on Houcksville?

Leading off Houcksville, the main road through the proposed residential community used to be a bifurcated road. Now the plan has just one lane in and one lane out — the median was eliminated.

“We recognize that with this connection … it may encourage outside traffic coming through the community to gain access to Doss Garland Road,” Davis said. “We didn’t want this community to be a bypass from the (Hampstead) Bypass.”

They also proposed to have street parking on both sides of the proposed two lane road to further quell traffic, Davis explained.

Some residents remained unconvinced.

“You need more aggressive traffic calming than just parked cars,” said Cheryl Moyer, of Houcksville Road.

Davis lauded Moyer’s point, suggesting that the engineers could add “what we call a tabletop, or an extended speed bump … that really does slow people down.”

Holly Oertel, who said she drives engines for a neighboring fire company, added that she was concerned a median at the opening of the access road to Houcksville would hinder a firetruck’s turning radius in the case of an emergency.

“You might as well not put a median in there,” Oertel told Davis before the commission, “because if I’m driving I’m going to take that median out. And I’m a good driver.”

Davis pointed to the engineering process and a “truck turning radii” templates done throughout the entire network of roads in the proposed development. He offered to show Oertel the studies at the next meeting and to push the median farther back into the community if need be.

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Mauck suggested Florida Rock and its engineers consider reversing course and using the proposed connection to Doss Garland Road road as the main entrance and exit. Davis said they’d already considered doing so, but that said road wouldn’t be constructed until later on, not at the beginning of the process.

“You absolutely have to phase infrastructure,” Davis explained. “Failing developments get way ahead of their infrastructure improvements and then we have a blip in the market and they’ve invested all that money in the dirt and they’re not selling homes.”

The connection to Doss Garland Road would be completed after building some homes, after one or two of what they consider to be about four phases, so as to allow the developer to open the model home park and sell a few of each different type of home before expanding the neighborhood.

Oertel claimed that Hampstead Overlook is a rushed job — an idea other critics of the proposed development have turned to.

Davis pointed to Florida Rock’s having begun discussions with the town’s planning commission about 18 months ago and said that it would probably be four years since those first discussions when a shovel would be driven into the ground for the first time — if the project is approved by the town after the lengthy planning process.

As for the environmental concerns, Davis explained that before Florida Rock completes the Response Action Plan (RAP) it agreed to with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the company has to know their project is approved by the town, or is at least close.

“We’re not going to expend money on (the RAP) until we have certainty, which is a couple years away,” Davis said. “But we’re probably going to spend money on that prior to obtaining final plan approval.”

Completing the steps to make the property safe to put homes on — per the MDE-regulated plan — is years away. The concept plan comes first. And then a preliminary plan. And then a final plan. And the myriad minute steps along the way.

On Wednesday the commission agreed the Carroll County Planning Department should have a look at the fresh concept plan — a step that would likely add three months.

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