Five things to know before Dec. 11 Hampstead Overlook public hearing, council vote

A public hearing for a rezoning petition that would advance the proposed Hampstead Overlook development in the Town of Hampstead planning process is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Supporters and critics of the proposed 270-home community, which would be constructed on a 118-acre lot along Houcksville Road, have the opportunity to speak for or against the petition to rezone the property from industrial to residential.


The Mayor and Town Council are slated to meet immediately after the Dec. 11 hearing, at which point the lawmakers are scheduled to vote whether to approve the petition for rezoning.

Here are five things to know heading into the hearing and vote:


1. The town already rezoned the property in 2016. An administrative error has caused it to backtrack.

The town council previously rezoned the property from industrial to residential in 2016. Hampstead officials this fall recognized an error in the advertising process leading to the introduction of the development two years ago.

The Town of Hampstead Mayor and Council were briefed by Town Manager Tammi Ledely about two mistakes related to two major projects — the Main Street Revitalization and the proposed Hampstead Overlook development. The errors are not expected to delay their respective projects.

Hampstead effectively restarted the planning and zoning process by reintroducing the petition for rezoning at the mayor and council meeting Nov. 13.

2. Lawmakers are voting only on the petition to rezone the Hampstead Overlook property from industrial to residential.


Florida Rock Properties Inc., the development company responsible for Hampstead Overlook, withdrew its concept plan earlier this year to refine it — accommodating for resident input, company leadership said.

If the council approves the petition, the development will have to continue through a 19-step development process, according to the town.

The developer has already resubmitted the concept site plan, according to a December announcement by the town. A public hearing is scheduled to immediately precede the town planning commission hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Commission members have an opportunity to review the plan before voting to approve or deny the plan at a later meeting.

3. The community has been unabashedly critical of the development of late, with town residents and nearby Carroll County neighbors speaking out since September.

Community members who have attended planning commission and town council meetings since September have rallied against the proposed development.

Their opposition is rooted in safety and traffic concerns.

Critics have said it’s unsafe to put families on the site because of arsenic and chlorinated solvents — trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE — discovered on the land.

Both chemicals are most commonly discharged by industrial degreasing operations and have been associated with cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The public poured into the Hampstead Town Hall, in an unprecedented fashion, for a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday. Town officials slated time for developers and concerned residents to talk about a 100-acre development proposal dubbed Hampstead Overlook.

In 2009 “water samples collected from beneath the property reported trace amounts of chlorinated solvents (tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene) in the groundwater beneath the site,” a Maryland Department of the Environment fact sheet details.

In order to use the property for residences, the MDE, as part of its Voluntary Cleanup Program, required Florida Rock to complete a response. The developer will not use groundwater from the property, and plans to dig up arsenic and to bury and cap it in one segment of the property.

Residents have also criticized the proposed development because, with only one entrance and exit in the original concept plan, they said it will increase traffic considerably.

4. The town and developer summoned state experts this fall. Opponents of the project remained skeptical.

Hampstead officials along with Florida Rock arranged for MDE experts familiar with the Hampstead Overlook property to attend the town’s Oct. 24 planning commission meeting.

Led by toxicologist Mark Mank, who assesses the potential impacts and oftentimes mandatory cleanups of hazardous land pollutants, the experts told the community the property was safe to live on.

Residents of Hampstead, and nearby Carroll County neighbors, questioned Maryland Department of the Environment experts about the dangers of a once-polluted agricultural property, which Florida Rock Properties Inc. hopes to develop into a community called Hampstead Overlook.

“[The property] is safe for everybody,” Mank told the Times following the Oct. 24 meeting. “People may disagree with, or not believe, me in that process, but the [pollutant] levels are inherently safe and very conservative to be protective of everybody.”

Hampstead resident Brittany Phillips, a leading voice against the development, and others have said that Geo-Technology Associates, an environmental consulting company hired by Florida Rock to complete the tests required by MDE, did the bare minimum.

5. Florida Rock has agreed to do further environmental testing.

Phillips met with Dave deVilliers III, vice president of Florida Rock, before the Nov. 28 planning commission meeting to discuss soliciting a third-party to conduct additional soil vapor testing.

“To reiterate, for those of you who may not have been at the last meeting, we are concerned about the toxic carcinogen PCE and the possibility of vapor intrusion,” Phillips said at the public meeting. “This dangerous chemical can vaporize, allowing the gasses to enter into the foundation of homes and exposing (sic) families.”

She said that deVilliers told her to come back with a company that could do the testing and that deVilliers agreed Florida Rock would consider the option. The developer did not guarantee that Florida Rock would employ the company Phillips proposed to complete the tests.

After a Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Nov. 28, Florida Rock Properties Inc., the developer behind a proposed 270-home community dubbed Hampstead Overlook, said it would pursue more environmental tests to ease community concern about chemical contaminants found on the property.

After the late November meeting, deVilliers told the Times that Florida Rock would pursue more environmental tests with hopes of supporting its original findings and gaining the community’s trust.

But deVilliers did not guarantee that the development company would employ the services of whichever company Phillips and her family suggested, but that regardless Florida Rock would do tests with their contractor Geo-Technology.

The environmental consultants did do soil vapor tests originally, but those tests detected no chemicals, deVilliers said.

He added Florida Rock recently found out “we can lower the detection limit” and that in the forthcoming vapor tests the developer will instruct the third party to use the lowest possible detection unit.

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