The Sykesville town manager has made public a local group's interest in annexing several hundred Eldersburg residences into the town.
At the council session Monday, Town Manager James L. Schumacher read a letter from the South Carroll Coalition acknowledging a recent meeting with town officials.
"We are at such a preliminary stage," said Kathleen Horneman, president of the coalition, which represents several Eldersburg communities. "We acted on requests from several members when we met with Sykesville."
Ms. Horneman said the coalition is exploring several options that would give Eldersburg residents planning authority and more police protection. Members also are considering incorporating the Eldersburg area. Ms. Horneman called both ideas "tentative at best."
"This annexation meeting is no different from last spring, when we contacted the Maryland Municipal League about incorporating," she said.
On both occasions, Ms. Horneman said, "we had asked for confidentiality."
The coalition is gathering information and is not prepared to make any announcement on annexation or incorporation, she said. Members hope to organize informational meetings in the spring and present all the options to residents who live within the proposed boundaries.
"I personally think Eldersburg is its own town and needs its own image," Ms. Horneman said .
Incorporation would take about five years, she said.
"That is too long to wait for planning and zoning authority," she said. "We want to avoid the rape of the land going on here and slow down growth until we can catch up."
Annexation also would mean increased police protection in the Eldersburg area, where about 45 percent of Carroll County crime occurs and where four resident state troopers patrol, Ms. Horneman said.
"Sykesville police are here frequently anyway assisting the state police," she said.
Sykesville Police Chief Wallace Mitchell said his officers went outside town limits 29 times last month in response to state police calls for assistance.
"Personally, I think it would be easier if the area was part of the town," he said.
Chief Mitchell said his department frequently receives calls from South Carroll residents who wonder why town officers can't respond.
"They live close and have a Sykesville address, but they are not within our corporate limits," he said. "We can't go unless the state police call us for backup."
Annexation would require "beefing up" the six-member municipal force considerably, Chief Mitchell said. "There should be 2.8 officers per 1,000 residents," he said.
The annexation idea is so preliminary that it is not clear how much Sykesville's population of 2,534 would be increased.
Shelley Counts, a coalition member, said that although Eldersburg residents want more police protection, she is unsure of their willingness to pay town property taxes -- 82 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value -- in addition to county taxes.
"A lot of people down here want more police and to hold onto their wallets at the same time," she said.
Sykesville Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said the town is reviewing its options.
"There are benefits and drawbacks to Sykesville, which could pick up the industrial property it sorely lacks," he said. "If there is genuine interest, we might explore the possibilities."