Westminster commercial center receives preliminary approval Council supports rezoning of Koontz farm


By the turn of the century, Westminster might be home to another commercial center, this one at the 130-acre Koontz farm on the city's west side, where residents are many but stores are few.

The proposed creation of a commercial center across from Western Maryland College at Route 140 received preliminary approval from the Westminster Common Council during yesterday's discussion of the city's first comprehensive plan in 13 years.

The property is zoned residential and permits construction of homes on half-acre lots.

Last night's decision, by a 3-1 vote, makes possible zoning changes that would allow the creation of a 17-acre commercial center and construction of homes with quarter-acre lots on about 50 acres. The rest of the Koontz farm will remain zoned residential and could be developed to include homes on half-acre lots.

"This decision allows everyone to benefit. The city will get added tax revenue, the developers will be able to have their commercial development and the community of Cliveden Reach will, for the most part, be left undisturbed," said Councilman Gregory Pecoraro, who recommended that the rezoning request made in January by developers Martin K. P. Hill and Lawrence Macks be granted with some provisions.

The developers had wanted a 22-acre business zone, which would have allowed a broad range of businesses -- from machine shops to hotels and restaurants -- to set up shop at the site. What they got was a smaller, more restricted commercial designation.

The developers' proposal has been the subject of debate for several months.

Residents of Cliveden Reach, an affluent neighborhood that would border the proposed proj- ect, fear the development would cause a dramatic increase in traffic through their quiet neighborhood. Residents expressed concern about the proposed extension of Thornbury Court, as outlined on 1985's comprehensive plan, which would connect Clive- den Reach with Hill and Macks' proposed development.

In making their decision yesterday, the five-member Common Council removed the extension of Thornbury Court from the 1998 comprehensive plan and designated Hill and Macks' proposed commercial center for a new kind of zoning. It is one of three sites being considered as possible "neighborhood convenience zones."

The other two sites are a 1.8-acre parcel behind Westminster Veterinary Hospital and a nearby 20-acre lot. Both are along Route 31.

Although details of the new land-use designation won't be worked out unless it is adopted, the neighborhood convenience zones would probably ban large outlet stores and 24-hour operations, planning and zoning officials have said.

The developers' proposal does not say what kind of business might be established in the commercial center, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works. However, any development on the Koontz farm would involve the construction of roads to connect safely with Route 140. Those roads are outlined in the comprehensive plan.

The City of Westminster Comprehensive Plan 1998, the first in 13 years, resulted from more than a year's work by city planners and a six-member Citizen Advisory Committee. If adopted, the plan will be in effect for six years.

The plan cites a general shortage of commercial space throughout the Westminster area and a specific lack of stores on the west side, where roughly half of the city's 16,000 residents live.

City officials are expected to vote on the comprehensive plan this month.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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