Sykesville town council defers Buttercup annexation to planning commission, talk growth

Sykesville town council defers Buttercup annexation to planning commission, talk growth
The Sykesville Mayor & Town Council, September 2018. (Jennifer Turiano)

The Sykesville Mayor and Town Council discussed the annexation of Buttercup Road on Monday — a move that could lead developers to rezone the county property and build 45 townhomes.

Although they contemplated voting for the annexation on Sept. 24, the council deferred it to the Planning Commission. The group hasn’t seen all the details since county commissioners approved it, made clear that the Sykesville section of the Carroll County Water and Sewer Master Plan would need to be edited to accommodate it, and recommended the town take on responsibility for the part of Raincliffe Road adjacent to the property.


Dulany Leahy Curtis & Brophy, the firm representing the county property’s prospective buyer has requested the property be annexed by Sykesville so that the industrial, low-density parcel — adjacent to the residential Raincliffe Center and Warfield at Historic Sykesville mixed-use development — could be converted to a higher-density residential parcel.

“I have… comments, sentiments on the [traffic] congestion,” said Council Member Christopher True. “I have to commute every morning down to Laurel and [Md.] 32 is a nightmare. Having it get worse, I know it’s going to get worse in the next five years or so. What is the schedule if this progresses through? What’s the timeline we can expect to have 45 townhomes up and running?”

With existing projects — like the 145 townhomes currently going up at Warfield and next steps in the dualization of Md. 32 expected by the State Highway Administration within the next year — True said he feared there would be too much happening at once.

Rob Scranton, a representative from the prospective developing company CBI Development, said that the average timing for a project like this would be about 24 months and people wouldn’t move in until 2022 or 2023.

True also wanted to know how the county’s expected sewer deficit could be reconciled — a deficit of 2,400 gallons per day.

It would require an edit to the county’s water and sewer master plan to reallocate current and future planned sewer uses if the plan were to move forward, according to Town Manager Aretha Adams.

They also opened the floor for public comment.

Sykesville resident Dana Alonzi said she moved to Columbia 22 years ago from the New York City metro area and enjoyed it before realizing it took 30 minutes just to drive across town, and that running errands could take half a day.

When she moved to Sykesville for a slower way of life, Alonzi said she would leave the house at 6:30 a.m. for her 45-minute commute to work, which was perfect.

“Then it became 6:15, and then 6 a.m.,” she said. “Now it’s crept to 5:50 a.m. It’s no surprise cars have increased, and there are seemingly more people here who commute in the direction I do.

“In addition to my selfish perspective on my commute, I also am selfish about my errands,” said Alonzi. “It’s starting to feel a lot less like Sykesville and more like Columbia. Going to the grocery store for a single ingredient after work is no longer an option.”

She said although there might not be people standing with her at the meeting that night, she has talked with people in grocery stores, at nail salons, and around town who are concerned with the congestion — much like True said he was.

But Mayor Ian Shaw said growth is “like a double-edged sword.”

“You need it and it’s scary at the same time,” he said. “One of the things we’ve heard of from the Warfield folks is: we want businesses to come, companies to come, but there’s not enough people, not enough rooftops. We want to be able to walk to the store instead of going to Eldersburg, so we can make it viable to shoot cross the [Md.32 pedestrian] tunnel and get something easy, try to contain [the growth].”


He said the people are coming, and either the town can have a seat at the table and negotiate with developers, or deal with growth coming from county projects outlined in the county’s Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan — which dictates growth in the larger unincorporated part of Carroll surrounding Sykesville.

“Rob [can] give us connectivity, sidewalks on Buttercup,” said Shaw. “Part of the plan for Warfield is eventually to have a sidewalk coming around the back to connect from the back of Buttercup — however the stretch is so long, it does make it hard to make these things viable. Every little piece we shorten that gap, the more viable it makes it to get there.”

Regardless of whether a project like this is halted, Shaw said, Sykesville is growing.

Council Member Alan Grasley elaborated, “In 2014, the Town of Sykesville’s master plan designated this area as a growth area. They did designate it as R-20,000 [low density] zoning, and at this point in time nobody would develop that land with an R-20,000 designation on it. It’s not worth the developer’s time in my opinion.”

Grasley also said that the proposed development would be adjacent to existing development and therefore consistent with the surrounding area — and that the project could really connect Freedom Park to Main Street.

“Nobody would be mad if there’s an acre with townhouses [on Buttercup],” said Grasley. “Nobody would be mad with townhouses next to [Raincliffe]. It’s just a continuation of a development.”

Scranton said that a lot of the concerns brought up at the meeting would come up again in the design phase of the development, reminding staff that this was a discussion about the annexation and rezoning, not the actual project.

“Once we submit a plan for consideration it will go through the town and county for [the capacity of] schools, water, police, fire, traffic — all of that will be a part of the development approval process,” he said.

Council Member and Planning Commission Liaison Julia Betz said the Planning Commission scarcely discussed any aspects of the annexation in conjunction with a rezoning request, and said she’d like them to have an opportunity to review new information.

“I know that would help me,” Betz said. “When this was presented to the Planning Commission it was to annex or not annex, there weren’t the details we have now.”

The Mayor and Town Council voted to allow the planning commission to discuss the project once more and offer a final recommendation. Five council members voted in favor of the decision, with Grasley dissenting and Councilwoman Stacy Link abstaining.

Councilwoman Anna Carter requested that in addition to that, Adams confirm the details of the town’s responsibility for the adjacent road according to the county’s recommendations — as it wasn’t specified to what extent Sykesville would be responsible for its maintenance.

The Planning Commission’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the Sykesville Town House. Once a recommendation is made, the annexation request will go back to the Mayor and Town Council for its next steps — which will include a vote and potentially moving to the rezoning stage.