David and Robert Max, developers best known for renovating commercial buildings in downtown Westminster, are proposing a six-building shopping center in Walnut Park Industrial Park at Dede Road and Route 140 in Finksburg.
The county Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved the project last week. The approval overrode environmental questions, reservations about reducing the county's stock of industrial land and opposition from Baltimore because of the center's proximity to Liberty Reservoir.
The Max brothers say the area has a shortage of retail and office space.
"There seems to be light industrial space available, but none for retail or offices," Robert Max told the three-member zoning board.
The Max Acquisition Limited Partnership has a contract to buy the 10.7-acre property between Route 140 and Carroll Racquet and Fitness Center from Barbara A. Griffith, a Baltimore auto dealer. The brothers did not disclose the price, but a study done for them by Legg Mason Realty Group indicated a purchase price of $750,000.
The appeals board decision clears the way for the owners to submit a site plan for review by the county planning commission.
The center would have a fast-food restaurant, a gas and convenience store, a bank, a retail service building and two office or retail buildings.
"There are no vacancies at all for retail or offices" in the Route 140 corridor, Robert Max said.
The State Highway Administration refused direct access to Route 140 for the property, but expressed no concern about increased traffic on Dede Road in a letter to the appeals board.
County Planning Director Philip J. Rovang raised questions about the loss of industrial land, traffic on Dede Road and the adequacy of the Route 140 and Dede Road intersection.
"Some people have argued that Finksburg would be ideal for industrial growth," Mr. Rovang said. However, the lack of public water and sewer service is a major handicap to development, he said.
Mr. Rovang said shopping center traffic will compete with beer trucks and tractor-trailers hauling asphalt and broken concrete and hazardous waste from existing businesses and industries in the park.
The planning director added that the Route 140 and Dede Road intersection is not designed for significantly higher numbers of vehicles.
But a traffic impact analysis done for the Max brothers by The Traffic Group Inc. of Towson predicted that the center will have only minimal impact on traffic. The study said 60 percent of traffic would be from cars already on roads in the area.
Richard Isaac, director of environmental health for the Carroll County Health Department, said he is uncertain whether the soil can pass percolation tests required for a septic system. Soil on the lot passed a percolation test years ago, but the topsoil has been scraped off, Mr. Isaac said.
The planned shopping center is opposite Tevco Self Service, where ground water is being pumped and treated to remove gasoline contamination discovered in 1986.
Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman George Krause said a 1993 map, the most recent available, showed a plume of ground water contamination had spread 300 to 400 feet northeast from the Tevco station.
"The conventional wisdom is that the plume has probably receded because of subsequent treatment. That won't be known until they do another map," Mr. Krause said.
Another water contamination problem that was traced to a nearby recreational vehicle dealership in 1986 has been cleaned up, Mr. Krause said.