Final approval of a corporate headquarters for Episcopal Ministries to the Aging in Sykesville seems likely, after a public hearing yesterday that presented several compelling arguments and generated no opposition.
EMA, a nonprofit corporation, plans a $6 million complex at Johnsville Road and Route 32 north of Sykesville. The Carroll County commissioners must approve a rezoning of the 4.5-acre property from conservation to business before EMA can break ground.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said yesterday's hourlong presentation was positive and free of dispute.
"There were no negatives and no controversy with this issue," said Gouge. "We should be able to put our opinions together on paper."
The board of commissioners, which has final authority on rezoning, could have voted yesterday but decided to wait for the county attorney's written opinion before acting on the petition. Commissioners have 30 days to decide.
"As soon as our attorney gets an opinion ready, we can make a decision quickly," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.
To win approval, EMA, parent company of Fairhaven Retirement Community and one of the county's largest employers, had to establish that the neighborhood has substantially changed. It based its arguments on businesses that are near the property and the town's recent annexation of state-owned property known as the Warfield Complex, both of which have altered the character of the neighborhood.
EMA's attorney called on several consultants to address two possible stumbling blocks posed by the county Health Department and the State Highway Administration.
Health officials insist on public water and sewer for the EMA project, which would be a 227,000-square-foot series of cottages with offices for 40 employees. The location of a water main through the property and a sewer pumping station nearby would address those concerns. Public utilities are within easy access of the site, said Robert Bond, a civil engineer.
The highway bureau objected to additional access roads to Route 32. Entrance to the offices would be from Johnsville Road, about 350 feet from the highway.