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Finksburg launches 2-year planning effort 'Gateway' community ponders its future


Finksburg residents covered everything from traffic to tourism in a wide-ranging meeting with the county planning commission -- the beginnings of a comprehensive planning process for an area that's a bottleneck and a gateway to Carroll.

County planners and commission members wanted to hear from residents and business people what they want included in a plan for their unincorporated and undefined community, which lies along Route 140 southeast of Westminster.

"How about a gateway community designation?" suggested Donald E. Hoffman, vice president of the year-old Finksburg Planning Area Council, a citizens group. "Because Finksburg is unique: It's what you see when you come up the hill from Baltimore County."

Daphne P. Quinn, the county's comprehensive planner for the area, asked about 30 people who attended Wednesday night to complete the phrase, "I'd like the Finksburg plan to study "

Topics included growth management and land use; transportation; community facilities; natural resources; economic development; historic and cultural resources; community involvement; interjurisdictional cooperation; and housing and community design.

Quinn recommended a thorough evaluation of the Finksburg area because the only existing plan dates from 1981 and focused upon the impact of development on Liberty Reservoir, rather than the community.

"Finksburg is unique among the county's designated growth areas," Quinn said.

Unlike the Freedom District, which also is unincorporated, Finksburg has no public water or sewer service.

The plan will take almost two years before adoption by the county. But because Quinn is leaving her post to take a job in Montgomery County next week, the process could take longer, warned Philip J. Rovang, county planning director. County planners also are working on plans for Westminster and Hampstead, and finishing one for the Freedom District.

David O'Callaghan, president of the citizens group, thanked Quinn for her work -- and urged Rovang and the commission to fill her post. He suggested that Finksburg elect a planning commission to have some self-determination.

Grant S. Dannelly, a planning commission member, took that idea further and urged the group to consider incorporating as a town.

"I've lived in the Freedom area for 30 years -- and I can tell you we've been spinning our wheels for 30 years," he said. "Freedom has become a cash cow for the county."

While a mayor and council and municipal tax might seem expensive, Dannelly continued, "It might be a small price for independence.

"Finksburg is now a big blob on a map, a big spot for growth," he said. "When it comes to libraries, senior centers you have to compete with the whole county for these. Your tax money pays for schools inside Taneytown and Westminster -- the money is spread out."

Population growth has been more rapid than projected in the 1981 plan, Quinn said, and Interstate 795 has opened -- bringing the area into the Baltimore metropolitan region.

"The Route 140 corridor has increased more than any other in the state in the last 10 years, and that definitely is a problem," said Paul A. Whipple, a resident for four years and one of many who mentioned traffic pressures on the community.

Several people urged public transportation -- "an emotional issue" in Carroll, said Laura O'Callaghan, a member of the Finksburg Planning Area Council.

Comments abounded on the intersection of Routes 140 and 91 -- where southbound traffic on 140 must turn right to go left onto 91, and traffic backs up to I-795.

"That's our town center," said O'Callaghan.

Martin F. Schmidt Jr., a resident for 12 years, said "a cloverleaf could keep traffic whizzing along."

That's "very expensive, but might be the most efficient solution," said Steven C. Horn, the county's chief of planning. Officials have tried to improve the intersection but "the topography is so challenging, and there's the proximity to the Patapsco and the city of Baltimore watershed."

Pamela Malkin, a resident for 12 years and recreation council member, said Finksburg's location "at the cusp of the county" has spawned day care facilities that draw children from far outside the community. As a result, she said, the community especially needs parks.

Neil Ridgely, a member of the Finksburg citizens group and town manager of Hampstead, suggested a library -- even a satellite in the shopping center -- and a post office, because "Finksburg is Reisterstown for the post office."

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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