Letting go of a dream; Carroll County: Bank takeover derails plans for a project to help rejuvenate downtown Westminster.


HOW TO measure the loss of a planned $6 million headquarters of Carroll County Bank & Trust in Westminster? The evaporation of 135 promised jobs? Collapse of the major redevelopment project for downtown Westminster? The disappearance of a strong, 150-year-old locally owned bank?

After a nasty court fight over stockholder demands to sell, CCB&T; became an attractive target in the frenzy of nationwide bank consolidation. BB&T; Corp. of North Carolina last week reeled in the bank, Carroll County's largest, and its holding company, Mason-Dixon Bancshares Inc.

The greatest impact for Westminster is the loss of the painstakingly planned redevelopment of the former Farmers Supply Co. site into an office center, parking structure and bank headquarters. BB&T;, lacking the local tie, canceled the project.

It's not easy to let go of the long-held dream of a new anchor for a revitalized downtown. It will require city and county leaders who can look to the future rather than looking back in anger and sorrow.

Above all, it requires patience and endurance to find a promising alternative to the bank plan, four years in the making. There's not a line of solid businesses clamoring to step in.

On the positive side, BB&T; will give the cleared acre plot to the city, plus $2.2 million for development. That's a sizable severance payment. "We are starting over, but not from scratch," says optimistic Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan.

Westminster must employ those resources wisely. The city should delay plans to build a three-floor parking garage there until new business prospects are more certain.

How city officials are able to deal with the setback, and pursue a new partner in transforming the site a block from Main Street, could well determine the future economic vitality of the entire county seat.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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