In one brief session last night, the Sykesville Town Council appointed a new mayor and unanimously rejected a rezoning petition it has wrestled with for months.
Councilman Jonathan Herman won the approval of the five remaining council members and will succeed Mayor Kenneth W. Clark, who resigned Monday to take a job out of state.
The council now must fill Mr. Herman's council seat and find a new chairman for the Planning and Zoning Commission, on which the new mayor has worked for several years.
One of Mayor Herman's first official duties may be to decide if the town can consider a developer's offer to sell the town the Raincliffe property for $1 million.
David Moxley, owner of the 32-acre site along Route 32 at Raincliffe Road, petitioned the town several months ago to rezone the property from industrial to residential. After hours of testimony, the council unanimously rejected the petition in the special session last night.
"I am disappointed the decision is not in our favor," Mr. Moxley said. "It is a mistake which does not benefit the town.
"The town believes in this piece of property, and we don't. If you purchase it, you will find out exactly why I am standing here tonight."
Mr. Moxley offered to help the town search for money to buy the parcel.
Rezoning the only available industrial land in Sykesville to residential would have had to be based on a mistake in the original zoning or a change in the character of the neighborhood.
The council found neither condition and agreed with its Planning Commission's recommendation to deny the rezoning.
"I have lived in town 17 years and have seen no change in the
flavor or tenor of the surrounding neighborhood," said Councilman Michael Kasnia. "The current zoning is compatible."
Mr. Herman said the original zoning was designed to give the town a variety of uses.
"The owner was careful to annex the property [in 1988] as commercial," said Councilman Eugene E. Johnson.
Had the council approved the petition, Mr. Moxley planned a development of 192 townhouses.
"We know a residential development would create a negative impact to existing water and sewer facilities," Councilwoman Julie Kaus said. "I am sure the townhouse development would be beautiful, but it is an inappropriate place to put it."
Mr. Herman said he appreciated Mr. Moxley's "entire approach" to the rezoning issue and assured him the town would "do whatever we can to make the property salable."
Town Attorney Cindy Hitt said she would have a written decision to Mr. Moxley within 30 days. He would have 30 days from receipt of the opinion to file an appeal. He said he has not discussed that option with his attorney.
"We have enough technical evidence to get their decision overturned," Mr. Moxley said. "No matter what, though, we have to live with these people."