The Town of Sykesville has hired a consultant to analyze how an impending state-funded project, Streetscape, will affect the community and the town's economic base, as well as paint a "big picture" of its overall impact on the municipality.

The Town Council voted, 4-1, Monday to award the consulting contract to Baltimore-based Oasis Design Group, an urban design and master planning firm. Councilman Christopher True voted against awarding the contract to Oasis, and Councilman William Bleam and Mayor Ian Shaw were absent.


The project — officially known as a Community Safety and Enhancement Project but commonly referred to as Streetscape — is an entirely state-funded endeavor expected to result in improved pedestrian and vehicle travel conditions. It also saves the state funding in the long run by eliminating maintenance costs because once the project is completed, Sykesville will become responsible for a one-mile stretch of Main Street (Md. 851) from the Howard County line to where it intersects with Third Avenue in town.

Oasis will complete four tasks as part of the contract, including the creation of a parking inventory diagram that could suggest the addition or elimination of some parking to accommodate pedestrians; the creation of a town opportunities diagram that will help to facilitate decisions regarding "big picture" planning issues; develop an alternative Streetscape concept; and meet with town and State Highway Administration officials to present its analysis and conceptualization of the project, according to the proposal.

The town has committed to spending $5,000 on the contract. The Main Street Association, a group consisting of citizens and town officials that works to further the development and revitalization of the downtown area, has indicated it will reimburse the town for half the cost of hiring the consultant. Funding from the association is raised through various town events and includes no taxpayer dollars. Any additional work conducted by Oasis as requested by the town will result in further expenditures.

True said he voted against the contract because a consultation would simply "connect the dots" between the Streetscape project and its affect on the town, and possibly entice Sykesville to continue the process with the design group, thus leading to greater costs.

Councilwoman Julia Betz, who first suggested the town council hire a consultant on the Streetscape project during a meeting in August, said the contract is a "good bargain" for a relatively small amount of money with no commitment to fund "anything beyond this."

Economic Director/Main Street Coordinator Steve Colella said during the meeting that the task force comprised of town residents and business owners assembled by the town to review the SHA's conceptualizations and to provide input lacks experience in urban design and landscape architecture.

"The individuals on the task force are very intelligent and highly competent people that are trying to meet critical needs and wants from the community... [but] no one on the task force has this experience so it's not well staffed to take these needs and translate them into these arenas," Colella said.

Sykesville was able to secure $500,000 from the state in 2013 for the conceptual phase of the project. During the August meeting, True said acquiring funding for the design phase is a formality, but actually gaining funding for construction could take years. Sykesville has about a four-month window for Oasis to complete its consultation, as the design phase is expected to begin in that time frame, he said.



Conceptual options for Streetscape project:

The State Highway Administration has presented several proposals regarding altering the sidewalks and available parking downtown as part of the Streetscape project planned for Main Street in Sykesville (Md. 851), including one that would eliminate all parking along Main Street from Church Street to Sandosky Road while widening the sidewalks; and another that does away with parking along one side of the road and decreased the width of the sidewalks to the SHA minimum of 5 feet.

Ayende Thomas, project manager with the SHA, also presented a third amalgamated option during a September meeting that increased the width of the sidewalks on the southbound traffic lane to 7 feet that varied in some areas up to 8 1/2 feet, and maintained the 5-foot minimum on the northbound traffic lane that increased in some areas to 9 feet. This third option also retained the majority of parking along Main Street and includes a 15-by-100-foot open space area for pedestrians near the gazebo downtown that would require retaining walls.


A fourth option, suggested by Fred Gossage, who owns property along Main Street, called for the widening of the sidewalk along the southbound traffic lane to 10 feet. Parking would also be kept in front of E.W. Becks restaurant, but the town would lose about eight parking spaces along Main Street. In order to accomplish this, the town would need to relinquish some of the Town House property, which abuts Main Street, to make room for the widened sidewalk, he said.