Car wash proposed for Liberty Road

The owner and developer of a property in Eldersburg adjacent to Liberty and Ridge roads hopes to build a car wash -- but is requesting a landscaping variance to decrease required setbacks.
The owner and developer of a property in Eldersburg adjacent to Liberty and Ridge roads hopes to build a car wash -- but is requesting a landscaping variance to decrease required setbacks. (Contributed)

The developer of an Eldersburg property brought a car wash proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission this week.

Although the developer, Jason Stilling, and engineer, Development Design Consultants, are not at the concept site plan stage, they were present at the Oct. 16 meeting to have a preliminary discussion about the proposed Liberty Road Car Wash — including a potential landscaping variance.


“Typically we don’t present the plans when variances are required,” Development Review Coordinator Laura Matyas said at the commission’s Tuesday meeting. “We typically act on the variances and then review the plan.

“We are looking to have a preconcept discussion with the planning commission.”


The 4,095-square-foot car wash with vacuuming stations is proposed on a 0.72-acre site in a neighborhood retail business [BNR] zone on public water and sewer. If built, it will be bordered by the Reservoir Ridge condominiums to the east and south, Liberty Road to the north, and a bank and gas station to the west.

“Access into the car wash is on the south side of the building,” said Matyas, “and the vacuuming stations are on the east side of the building with associated parking for those.

“Along [Md.] 26 at this location there is no median,” she said, “so it’s accessible to both eastbound and westbound traffic. The State Highway Administration has reviewed the plan, and they are OK with the full movement; they will be requiring a partial decel[eration] lane.”

The problem, she said, is that it is required by the county landscape manual for the property have a 15-foot setback from surrounding properties to act as a buffer.


Because the parcel is narrow — only 100 feet wide — that setback takes up 30 percent of the property, and the developer is hoping to decrease it on the east and west sides of the property to only six feet.

“We’ve looked at a number of layouts here,” said engineer Andy Stine. “We need every inch of that six to make it work.”

“Typically these car wash buildings are wider than what we are showing on the plan,” he said, “but we are shaving every inch we can out of the equipment room and the access.”

And because the parcel is so narrow, Stine said, the property isn’t ideal for any other use.

“It would be difficult for any commercial use, anything allowed in BNR, to be allowed on this property,” he said. “This just happens to be a very narrow building given its function, so it does lend itself to fitting here.”

Matyas said that the closest condo at Reservoir Ridge is 42 feet from the southern property line, and that on the east side is the road for the condominiums, Cornwall Drive, which provides perpendicular parking on both sides.

A Google Maps satellite image of the area on which a car wash is being proposed on Liberty Road in Eldersburg.
A Google Maps satellite image of the area on which a car wash is being proposed on Liberty Road in Eldersburg. (Contributed)

Commission comments

Planning Commission Chairman Richard Soisson asked why the property owner couldn’t just buy the property at the line to satisfy the 15-foot requirement since Reservoir Ridge didn’t have anything built on it.

But Stine said that the property owners are not allowed to sell the land for developmental use.

“You have to think outside the box,” Commission Member Dan Hoff said. “Some landscaping, you could use on an easement, and it would benefit them. I think there are definitely things that could be done to mitigate the impact to the residential property.”

Hoff said the chain link fence bordering the residential property was also something that would impact them negatively.

“I think it would be better to have something more attractive than a chain link fence,” he said. “People leaving that building will look directly at your use. I understand why you're looking for the 6-[foot variance], I get it, but looking at a different fence would be key.”

Stine said the chain link fence was just on the map because it is currently there, and that there were plans to take it down.

Commission Member Alec Yeo’s comments were about safety for drivers on Ridge Road.

“As cars are heading south, headlights [from cars at the car wash] will be confusing to Ridge Road drivers,” he said. “Something about that corner just comes up on people quickly, and I think it’s maybe people turning into the bank.”

He recommended adding more landscaping as a buffer between the prospective car wash and the road.

“I’d even go evergreen and even beef that up a little bit,” said Yeo, “because you know you’re going to have cars parked there for a little while.”

Hoff said that it could be possible to take the commission’s comments and make them conditions for granting the landscaping variance — specifically the requests to remove the chain link fence and replace it with one deemed more attractive, and to put evergreen landscaping as a buffer, with additional plantings beyond the property line if the Reservoir Ridge owners support the idea.

View of the parcel where the Liberty Road Car Wash is proposed from Liberty Road, Eldersburg
View of the parcel where the Liberty Road Car Wash is proposed from Liberty Road, Eldersburg (Contributed)

County comments

Carroll County Forest Conservation Specialist John Bowman said the main reason for coming to P&Z before the variance and before the concept site plan was to see if the community came to voice concerns.

“That doesn’t seem to have materialized,” he said.

And from his perspective, the only concerns in decreasing the setback would be ensuring mature trees have enough room to provide adequate screening and grow.

“Six feet is relatively narrow,” said Bowman, “but the good thing in this case is the borders of the trees are the property line, an abstract concept. Trees don't know that.

“These trees will be rooted adjacent to the property line,” he said, “and they’ll have all that soil in between the property line and adjacent property line. It’s not like were putting them in a pot in this location. I think it also works to our advantage with the relatively limited space.”

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 3, an ex-officio member of the commission, said that the area in question is also a priority area for the SHA to make traffic improvements although he wasn’t sure what improvements would be made or when.

“I think it was looked upon as the flow is jammed from Oklahoma Road to the bridge at any given time,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure you all knew that it’s on the priority level at the SHA.”

Next steps

Matyas said that a traffic study will assess the impact to the area before the developer presents its concept site plan to the commission, and a stormwater management plan will be developed. There will also be a discussion about potential interconnectivity to nearby Ridenour Way, she said.

As far as community concerns, Matyas said the developers went to the Technical Review Committee on Sept. 24 and no citizens attended the meeting.

Developmental Review received only one inquiry, she said, from “an individual who historically has come to us with plans for everything happening in the Freedom Area.”


Prior to the Oct. 16 Planning and Zoning meeting, the department mailed out 49 courtesy postcards, and hadn’t heard from anyone else.


Bowman will make his recommendation on the variance, which will lead to a decision letter written by the director of the Carroll County Department of Land and Resource Management, Tom Devilbiss, Matyas explained.

“So once the variance determination is made and a traffic study is submitted and reviewed, the Planning Commission, you will see it back as a concept approval,” Matyas told commission members.

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda can be found on the Carroll County government website 10 days before its meetings on the third Tuesday of every month.

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