The City of Westminster is annexing the former Westminster Livestock Auction property and a Pennsylvania Avenue site planned for apartments intended to be reasonably priced.
The Westminster Common Council voted unanimously on the two annexations at its Monday meeting.
No citizens commented during either of the public hearing periods during the meeting.
Livestock Auction property
When the Westminster Livestock Auction closed in 2018 due to financial difficulties, it was a sudden end to an agricultural auction that had run since 1936.
The property was purchased by the city because of its location at 1117 Old New Windsor Road, right next to the wastewater treatment plant. It will be part of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, known as the Enhanced Nutrient Reduction and Biosolids Upgrade project. Upgrading the facility will allow it to meet stricter nitrogen and phosphorus emission targets resulting from the 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement and increase the city’s capacity to handle wastewater from new developments.
On Nov. 26, 2018, the council authorized purchase of the property for $800,000 and closed on the property on Dec. 10, 2018.
Effective Dec. 17, the city leased the property to HRI Inc., the contractor for the wastewater expansion, for $130,000. It will be used for materials storage, worker parking and offices for the duration of the project, according to a Westminster city newsletter sent in January 2019.
Under Maryland law, local government annexations must be consistent with the comprehensive plan of that local government.
According to a memo issued by city staff along with the Monday meeting agenda, “The petition is consistent with the Municipal Growth Element of the 2009 Comprehensive Plan because it helps to facilitate future expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Wastewater capacity is the foundation of what allows the rest of the objectives within the Municipal Growth Element to occur.”
Prior to the annexation vote, the city sent out notice to 15 agencies. None had any comment except for the Board of County Commissioners, who asked that the city also annex a 1.2-acre section of Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) right-of-way abutting Md. 31 in order to make the corporate limits more uniform.
After seeking advice from the city attorney, the council decided to contact SHA to ask if they would agree to that annexation separately at a later date.
Willows at Westminster
The second property annex vote concerned two parcels located at 214 Pennsylvania Ave. and 218 1/2 Pennsylvania Ave. Both are part of the planned Willows at Westminster apartments, which will include 40 units.
Councilman Tony Chiavacci said the apartments would fill an identified need in the city for workforce housing.
“It’s very much consistent with what we’re hoping to do within the city limits. And I think it’s going to fill ... a void that we don’t have enough of in the city, which is, you know we use that term, workforce-type housing.”
Workforce housing is a term generally used to refer to housing targeted at low-paid but essential service workers like firefighters and teachers by being affordable on their income and close to their workplaces.
MBID of Delaware LLC is the contract purchaser of the two parcels.
Other parcels that are part of the Willows at Westminster project were already within city limits.
Mayor Joe Dominick said the proposed use of the property is in line with a high priority in the city’s strategic plan, multifamily housing development.
The annexation is also a rare case of one that makes the city boundaries a little cleaner.
The location was “almost an enclave,” Councilman Kevin Dayhoff said.
Representatives of the developer and the owners were present at the meeting to answer questions from the public, although no residents attended. Council members said they had asked questions when the project first came up at a meeting in February for water allocation. The parcels are zoned R-7,500 Residential.
The city sent notice of the proposed annexation to 15 required local agencies, and none chose to return comment except for the Board of County Commissioners, who approved the project, but said they hoped adjacent property owners would be notified of this annexation and future annexations.
Only those who live within the area to be annexed were required by law to be notified. No registered voters live on either parcel.
Andrea Gerhard, comprehensive planner for Westminster, said there had not been time to go through a notification process for adjacent property owners in regards to this annexation. She said the mayor and council could direct the Department of Community Planning and Development to do so for future annexations if they wished.
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The annexation becomes effective 45 days after the approval.