Strong petition. Weak response.

Carroll County’s Director of Planning, Phil Hager

On November 15 of last year, two residents of the Homeland Condominiums met with Phil Hager. Mr. Hager is Director of the Carroll County Department of Planning and Secretary to the County’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The purpose of the meeting was to present to Director Hager a petition signed by 55 people who own or rent condominiums along Homeland Drive in Eldersburg. The Homeland Condominiums have a total of 70 units in three adjacent three-story buildings.

As you can see from the Google satellite image below, Homeland Drive borders the right side of the 22.6 acre mostly vacant property, a portion of which is being sold to LIDL (“leedle”) who will build a grocery store – the seventh full-size grocery store in Eldersburg.

The property is currently zoned B-NR which stands for Business – Neighborhood Retail. As its title indications, B-NR is meant for small business activity in highly residential neighborhoods. That’s why B-NR zoning limits store size to just 10,000 SF – specifically to prevent large stores from being built on such properties.

Proposed Site for New LIDL Grocery Store

The property runs along Liberty Road, between Georgetown Blvd. on the left and Homeland Drive on the right. (Most of it looks like a giant right foot.) Those are the Homeland Condominium buildings running along the left edge of Homeland Drive.

Unfortunately for the current property owner, the sale to LIDL is contingent upon a change in zoning that would increase maximum store size from 10,000 SF to something more, 40,000 SF for example, which is large enough to accommodate the grocery store LIDL plans to build.

Long story short, what began as a request by the property owner to increase maximum store size from 10,000 SF to 40,000 SF on just the one property that we’re talking about has now morphed into a zoning language “text amendment” that will increase maximum store size tenfold, from 10,000 SF to 100,000 SF, not just for the one property, but on all B-NR properties everywhere in the County. That may or may not be a surprise to people and businesses that reside near all these other B-NR properties. We hope they’ve been property notified of the pending change and are paying attention.

In case you’re wondering, 100,000 SF is large enough to put a Target and other “big box” stores butt-up against the Homeland Condominiums and other townhouse and free-standing residences that border or are nearby the property. And now you know why these owner/residents of the Homeland Condominiums went to the trouble of writing, signing and delivering their petition – 5 months ago.

These condo owners and residents – as well as other people living in townhouses and free-standing homes around the property – are the ones with the most to lose. Their homes are the ones whose values are most likely to decline when the property is developed. They’re the ones whose quality of life is going to be most effected by the noise, the lighting, the traffic and other disconcerting effects from being adjacent to a shopping center.

When the owners and residents of the Homeland Condominiums and other homes nearby bought their properties, they had every reason to expect the B-NR zoning of the property they boarded to remain in effect for the long-term. And now, because one property owner want to sell some of the property to a major grocery store chain, all that they had every right to trust is about to change.

Here’s an unsigned copy of their petition…

Homeland Condominiums Owners/Residents Petition

The 55 people who submitted this petition to Director Hager have every right to be concerned and to want to influence how, precisely, the property next to them is developed. There are other voices to be heard, of course, including the property owner, but these are the residents whose concerns count most.

Is Director Hager or are the Planning and Zoning Commission Members paying attention? Hard to say, because there’s been no response, no formal recognition of their petition. And that’s one reason for this post – to increase public awareness and, hopefully, encourage the Planning and Zoning Commission to give this petition a second (or first?) reading.

Most importantly, we’re going to ask County Commissioner Doug Howard to read this article and the Homeland Condominium owners/residents petition. Commissioner Howard was elected to be the champion of his constituents. Maybe he can help make sure their concerns get the attention and, most importantly, the respect they deserve.

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