In the face of tough questions from Hampstead residents and Town Council members last night, the county's economic development director defended the deal he and state officials worked out to persuade Sweetheart Cup Co. to build its new mid-Atlantic distribution center south of town on Houcksville Road.
John T. Lyburn, director of the county Department of Economic Development, attended the meeting at the request of council members, who feel the Sweetheart Cup project will have a major impact on their town. The building will be the largest distribution center in the state, Lyburn said.
Council members were particularly concerned about the increased traffic the 1 million-square-foot center's trucks would bring to overburdened Route 30. About 80 to 125 trucks a day are expected to move through the site, mostly traveling south on Route 30, during off-peak hours.
A Route 30 bypass project, which was initiated about 20 years ago, is stalled, awaiting results of an environmental study on endangered bog turtles that inhabit a stretch of the proposed route.
The council also asked why such a large project sailed through the county and state permit processes while other development efforts in town have to undergo traffic and environmental studies.
After Lyburn spoke at the meeting, the frustrated council voted to open minutes of a closed session with him in March. At that meeting the council members had raised all the issues that residents were concerned about last night, but none of the concerns was addressed in the final deal, said Councilman Larry Hentz.
The $20 million distribution site for Sweetheart Cup -- 141 acres off Houcksville Road, just outside the town limits -- could be ready by next spring or summer. It will be a three-story, 40-foot-high building that is 1,640 feet by 640 feet, according to development plans submitted to Carroll County Department of Planning.
It would share an entrance and exit to Route 30 with the Black & Decker Corp. plant. Sweetheart is one of the country's largest manufacturers of disposable plastic and paper products, with $844 million in sales last year.
The center will employ about 135 people, some of whom will be transfers from the company's Owings Mills site, company officials have told The Sun.
The Owings Mills site will continue to operate as company headquarters and as a major manufacturing facility.
Company President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Uleau said the privately held Sweetheart, which employs 6,000 people nationwide, including 2,500 in Maryland, had considered other state locations but found the Hampstead area ideal. Uleau said in August that the company might get some funding incentives from the county but that details had not been finalized.
The site, formerly owned by Black & Decker, will be developed by Cappelli Enterprises Inc. of New York, with Sweetheart signing a 20-year lease.
In other business last night, the town council held a hearing on an ordinance to charge those whose property is annexed by the town a water impact fee comparable to what is charged in new developments. There were no objections.
The council also heard that renovation of the former town police station will be bid for a third time.
Pub Date: 9/15/99