Year in Review: Residents push back hard, Hampstead Overlook moves forward

Year in Review: Residents push back hard, Hampstead Overlook moves forward
In this file photo Randy Wilkerson of Hampstead pushes back at Planning and Zoning Commission meeting where Maryland Department of the Environment toxicologist Mark Mank answered environmental questions. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

The proposed 250-plus home development along Houcksville Road long predates 2018.

But, by September, the public was railing against the proposed residential community dubbed Hampstead Overlook.


Critics cited environmental concerns. The property had been contaminated with dangerous chemicals including arsenic and chlorinated solvents — trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE — and as a result is unfit to house families on, concerned citizens said.

Houcksville Road, meager in size, also couldn’t handle the influx of cars that 250 families would add, the community said.

The developer, Florida Rock Properties Inc., and the Hampstead mayor, Town Council and Planning Commission pointed to Maryland Department of the Environment-approved environmental tests that labeled the property as safe to build on.

Some concerned community members, backed by a significant body of research, asked such pointed and scientifically complex questions that Florida Rock and Hampstead leadership decided to call in the experts, arranging for a public meeting including MDE toxicologist Mark Mank and his colleagues Oct. 24.

Many residents remained unconvinced, saying Florida Rock and its environmental contractor Geo-Technology Associates did the bare minimum in testing for carcinogenic chemicals that could hurt families.

During the planning and zoning process, town officials discovered they’d balked on providing requisite advertisement in 2016 leading up to the public hearing at which the mayor and council accepted a petition to rezone the 118-acre property slated to become Hampstead Overlook.

The town revoked the change in zoning, reverting the former Leister Farm property to industrially zoned.

The petition to rezone the property to residential was reintroduced by the council in early November. At that Nov. 13 meeting Brittany Phillips, who grew up on the Leister Farm and became a leading voice in opposition to the development, implored council to seek more chemical testing.

Later in November the petition for rezoning went before the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission voted unanimously to recommend the council again accept the petition to rezone the Hampstead Overlook plot from industrial to residential.

After the meeting, which yielded further public scrutiny, Dave deVilliers III, vice president of Florida Rock, told the Times the company would pursue additional soil vapor tests. He and Phillips said they sat down before the meeting, and that deVilliers had agreed to, at least, consider soliciting a third-party to do more the testing.

As of early December, deVilliers said Florida Rock submitted a work plan to MDE for further environmental tests. Phillips had not yet returned with a company she and her associates deemed suitable to do the tests.

Hampstead on Dec. 11 hosted a public hearing for the petition to rezone the Houcksville Road property from industrial to residential. Council, after an emotionally charged portion of public comment culminated in one citizen accusing lawmakers of impropriety, voted 4-1 in favor of rezoning.

The property is now zoned residential, and many in the public voiced displeasure. Hampstead Overlook, like all other developments, will continue along a 19-step planning and zoning checklist.

Though 2019 will surely shape the project — and whether it’s approved — it will likely be two years before a shovel of dirt is removed from the former farm.