Panel supports rezoning for homes; Recommendation calls for taking 32 acres out of industrial zone

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Sykesville Planning Commission has endorsed a proposal to build 150 homes along Route 32 at Raincliffe Road on land that is zoned for light industry. The panel has recommended rezoning 32 acres for residential use.

It is a reversal of a 1994 decision, when the property known as Raincliffe Center was the only available industrial land in the town of 3,500 residents. But Sykesville's recent annexation of the Warfield Complex from Springfield Hospital Center adds 138 acres of industrial land to the town.

"With Warfield, there is a change in the neighborhood," said Michael Rice, chairman of the Planning Commission. "It will be considerably less costly to start businesses [at Warfield]. The landscape made Raincliffe difficult for commercial development. Allowing residences is a more practical solution than having property just sit there."

Town Manager Matthew H. Candland called Warfield "the kicker in this decision."

"Now that Warfield is on line, it presents the town with viable industrial property," Candland said.

Sykesville residents overwhelmingly approved the Warfield annexation, which includes 15 century-old brick buildings. Officials can move forward with plans to restore and lease the buildings.

The commission's recommendation on the Raincliffe property goes to the Town Council tomorrow. If council members approve the proposal,

Candland will schedule a public hearing.

"I want to do something with this property," said David Moxley, an Ellicott City developer and owner of the Raincliffe Center. "The site is just not conducive to economic development, with its topography, rocks and wetlands. Residential [use] will allow us to design around a lot of that."

Moxley spent years trying to market Raincliffe as a commercial site. The property is the last parcel of a 500-acre tract his family purchased 30 years ago. Most of the original property was sold to the state for parkland.

'Terrain is difficult'

Although many considered its proximity to Interstate 70 and Route 32 to be an advantage for a shopping center or office complex, Raincliffe remained vacant. A business partnership with the town and a $1.5 million state grant to help develop the site failed to attract tenants. The state rescinded the grant.

"The location is great, but the terrain is difficult and the tenant would have to make the improvements," said Candland.

Five years ago, Moxley asked the town to rezone Raincliffe for nearly 200 townhouses. His request was denied in September 1994 because he failed to prove a change in the neighborhood or an error in the original industrial zoning, which the county placed on the property in 1977. The town annexed the parcel as industrial land in 1987.

Study of wetlands awaited

The request generated months of debate, opposition from homeowners concerned with crowded schools and roads, and a marathon public hearing that lasted until 1: 30 a.m.

Moxley's new plan calls for about 150 homes including 80 townhouses. Several factors might affect the final number of lots, including a review by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the impact on wetlands.

"There will be design issues, covenants and restrictions," said Candland. "We want something that complements the town, something that is desirable."

Pub Date: 3/07/99

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