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Year in Review: Land use in South Carroll

Year in Review: Land use in South Carroll
The Warfield Commerce and Cultural Center in Sykesville is pictured Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Much of progress was made during 2018 in South Carroll in terms of planning and development, with major accomplishments like the adoption of the Freedom Plan and breaking ground at the Warfield development at the top of the list.

Also notable were the plans unveiled for a hotel in Eldersburg, and despite talks of growth, Sykesville’s denial of a proposal to annex a portion of Buttercup Road for a continuation of townhomes adjacent to both the Raincliffe Center and Warfield at Historic Sykesville.

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Freedom Plan

The Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan, a 10-year master plan to guide development and land use in South Carroll’s Freedom Area, hadn’t been updated since 2001.

And when Carroll’s 60th Board of County Commissioners rescinded the decision they made back in November 2017 — to remand the complete plan back to the Planning Commission for additional edits — after 10 months of work this August, then-District 5 Commissioner Doug Howard said it might have been an unorthodox way to go about it, but the job got done.

The Planning Commission publicly shared their disappointment with the commissioners for this action in a letter, as they felt 10 months of hard work would be discarded, but Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who is also a nonvoting member of the commission assured them their research in full would be used in the final plan.

The bottom line, however, was Howard and his fellow departing commissioner, Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said they wanted to be a part of getting the planning document passed before they left office in December, and succeeded in doing that.

The BOCC got the plan back, made edits — specifically regarding density, Planned Unit Developments and some definitions, held a public hearing on Oct. 3, and adopted the plan on Oct. 10.

Once all was said and done, Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Richard Soisson said he just wanted to move on.

“Frankly, we could understand why this board wanted to do it, but we were just disappointed in the course that they took, just to put it on the fast track,” he told the Times in October.

“We understood they had the right do to it,” Soisson said, “were just hoping they would work better with us on the final product in a timely fashion.”

Warfield

Warfield at Historic Sykesville, the development formerly known as the Warfield Commerce and Cultural Center, made ground-breaking headway this year after 18 years of planning.

The mixed-use development is configured to support nearly 600,000 square feet of commercial office, light industrial and retail space, approximately 180 residential units, a full-service hotel, and a 27-acre town park upon completion.

Warfield is a series of buildings, many roughly 100 years old, on the former grounds of the Springfield Hospital, a mental institution owned by the state. While Springfield continues to operate on a much smaller basis nearby for forensic patients, the land and these buildings that make up the Warfield complex have been largely unused for decades, since a movement in the 1970s and ’80s to deinstitutionalize mental health.

The road has been a long one — but picked up speed significantly once the town finalized the site plans for residential parcels E and F on June 4 and later the property’s sale to the Warfield Collaborative on June 26.

“It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable from my perspective,” said Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw the day after the sale was made. “Oh my God — I feel so good.”

Developers later broke ground on the construction of 145 townhomes on July 26, one month later, and Shaw announced the pedestrian tunnel would be named after former Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman. Herman spearheaded the walkway, which will help connect the development to Main Street.

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Eldersburg Station

Black Oak Associates is preparing its final site plan for Eldersburg Station — which will be home to a 12,853-square-foot Candlewood Suites Hotel and 6,000-square-foot, to-be-determined restaurant on the corner of Londontown Boulevard and Bevard Road.

Black Oak is not unfamiliar with Eldersburg, as it is the developer behind Eldersburg Marketplace across the street — with a Home Depot, Giant and Kohl’s — and Eldersburg Commons, which replaced the Carrolltowne Mall with a Walmart, TJ Maxx, Ulta, Olympia Sports, Petco, Chipotle, Sleepy’s, AT&T and Jimmy John’s.

Plans to develop a shopping center on the site were thwarted in 2008 when the Great Recession hit, but Black Oak is returning with hopes to bring the area its first hotel.

“I think that’s why the folks in Economic Development were encouraging us to pursue it,” said Black Oak partner Dixon Harvey in August. “You can’t do conferences right now, and if your in-laws are coming for a long stay, they’re staying with you.”

According to Dixon, the final site plan should come before Planning and Zoning sometime in spring 2019.

Annexation on Buttercup Road

But despite the hubbub in Carroll County’s largest designated growth area, South Carroll is not pursuing development with reckless abandon.

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The Town of Sykesville denied a petition to annex about 9.73 acres of an 11.7-acre parcel on Buttercup Road in the Sykesville Municipal Growth Area in November.

The parcel is located on the west side of Buttercup Road on the north side of Raincliffe Road, and is zoned general industrial with a low-density residential land use designation. The parcel’s contract purchasers hoped the town would annex the property and change its zoning to urban residential with a high-density land use designation so 45 townhomes can be built there.

Even though the Board of County Commissioners already wrote their letter supporting the annexation and signed a waiver for the zoning change, the town’s council and planning commission could not be convinced.

Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw said the annexation would be supported if the entirety of the parcel were included, rather than just the portion on which the townhouses would be built. There is a Baltimore Gas & Electric substation on the portion excluded from the petition currently, and although no development is expected there, Shaw said having industrial development in the town would be a benefit.

“I’m opposed only because I want the other piece,” he said.

The only two council members to vote in favor of approving the annexation were Alan Grasley and Christopher True, with the other members and Shaw in opposition.

“This is part of the Sykesville growth area,” Grasley said. “We have a builder that wants to spend some money in our town and develop the property, and I think the annexation is done. They did due diligence on it, commissioners approved it. It provides connectivity with the town, Warfield and Freedom Park. It connects to townhouses already there. I think we should approve it the way it is.”

J. Brooks Leahy, representative for the contract purchaser of the property, said he had spent close to a year on the petition, and did not guarantee the owner of the parcel would be interested in adding the other portion of the property — or going through the process again with uncertainty as to whether or not it would be approved.

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