The city of Westminster intends to purchase property on Main Street with a focus on redeveloping it because of its key location downtown.
The council voted unanimously to authorize the city to acquire the property, located at 17-25 W. Main St., known as the Stocksdale Property, for $750,000. The property has been owned by James L. and A. Jayne Stocksdale since 1987.
The city raised the matter as an emergency ordinance at the most recent Mayor and Common Council meeting in order to start the process as soon as possible.
A study period of 100 days started directly after the Monday meeting when the mayor signed the purchase contract. It will allow the city to do a title search, survey work and environmental assessment on the site, City Administrator Barbara Matthews said at the meeting.
The city expects to close on the property before the end of 2019.
James Stocksdale said he wished to wait until closing to comment on the matter.
The money for the purchase will come from the city’s reserve funds. The purchase of the property wasn’t something the city could have anticipated when the council passed the 2020 budget before the start of the financial year on July 1, Matthews said.
“We’re not pulling it from some other part of the budget or not doing something that we would like to do otherwise,” Councilman Tony Chiavacci clarified. “We have a relatively decent reserve fund, and it’s for exactly this type of latitude to be able to make a purchase like this when it becomes available.”
“This is a moment I’ve waited for for a long time,” Council President Gregory Pecoraro said.
The council discussed a smart growth survey of the downtown area in the 1990s that identified 17-25 W. Main St. as a key parcel for the city’s downtown. The city has been interested in the property for almost two decades.
“Ever since that time, I’ve been working to try and make sure the city or some private developer had the opportunity to develop that parcel to its highest and best use," said Pecoraro, who was first elected to the council in 1994. "I think it’s going to be a real anchor for all of downtown for generations to come.”
Councilman Benjamin Yingling said, “In an organization like this, when you make big decisions, you go back to your strategic plan.”
He said a goal of the city was to promote opportunities to be an active partner in public/private joint ventures that address the underutilization of key parcels in the downtown area.
“I believe that this is an incredible opportunity for our downtown," Yingling said. "And it’s what our residents want. They’ve been telling all of us they want a better, more vibrant downtown.”
The mayor and council took turns thanking the Economic Development Committee and the Stocksdale family for being supportive of the acquisition and city staff for moving quickly.
The property is zoned mixed-use infill. In Westminster, these properties fall near the center of downtown along Md. 27.
“This zone allows for multi-family housing at a density of up to 25 dwelling units per acre as a principal permitted use in combination with a retail or office use on the first floor,” according to the City of Westminster Comprehensive Plan.
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The comprehensive plan’s goals include zoning that encourages mixed-use development in order to “provide increased housing choices for residents and a more active 18-hour environment in the heart of the City.”