Planners recommend rezoning lot on Route 97; Highway-widening plan is dead, officials say


Carroll County planners have recommended that a long-proposed widening of Route 97 in Woodbine be removed from Carroll's master plan, effectively killing any chance of making the highway a gateway to the county.

Holding land for construction of a state highway that may never happen is poor planning, officials said. The State Highway Administration and Howard County dropped the Route 97 widening from their master plans several years ago.

"It is not being fair holding people hostage to a road," said Ed Wheatley, county planning commissioner. "The state can't hold this land forever."

Several years ago, the county switched its focus from Route 97 to Route 32 in Eldersburg, hoping to make that the major, four-lane highway into Carroll from Interstates 70 and 95. Before that, Carroll officials had envisioned the same entry into the county using Route 97. Route 32 is four lanes from I-95 in Howard County to Clarksville about five miles south of I-70.

Steven C. Horn, county director of planning, said that the absence of state commitment to Route 97 is reason enough to remove the highway project from the county's growth plan, an action that only the planning commission can take.

"The county has done a tremendous job protecting rights of way for state roads projects and has not been rewarded with a road," Horn said.

The highway issue played a role in another decision yesterday by the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel approved a change in land use that will create nearly 40 acres of industrial land along the highway and near Greater Carroll Industrial Park and the Colonial Pipeline, which carries oil and gas underground across Maryland.

The parcel, now zoned for agriculture, is also adjacent to the county's Hoods Mill landfill, which is no longer active.

The rezoning proposal also had the support of the county Department of Economic Development.

"The property is adjacent to one of the largest industrial zones in the county," said Horn. "Extension of this zoning is reasonable."

Rt. 97 Enterprises, a real estate and development company, plans to create six industrial parcels on the 36.7-acre plot at Route 97 and Hoods Mill Road. An electrical contractor and a landscaping company will lease two lots. All tenants will use a common driveway to access Hoods Mill Road.

Richard Titus, attorney for the developer, argued that the incomplete improvements to Route 97 changed the character of the neighborhood, criteria for rezoning.

"The 1965 plan was to have a four-lane, divided highway here soon," Titus said. "That didn't occur. For all intents and purposes, the Route 97 realignment into Carroll County is dead."

A similar petition failed in 1982, largely because officials were concerned the property was located near a proposed right of way and might affect highway plans.

The panel's recommendation goes to the county commissioners, who have final zoning authority.

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