ELKTON — A plan for the town of Elkton to annex around 59 acres of land around Belle Hill Road along with a change in zoning from residential to commercial was approved by the Cecil County Council Tuesday.
In a letter to council, County Executive Danielle Hornberger expressed her opposition to the rezoning and asked council to delay their vote until the Maryland State Highway Administration provides information about the proposed break in access at Route 279.
“The administration does not support the rezoning request of highway commercial that would use a primary residential road, Belle Hill Road, for access,” the letter states.
Council member Jackie Gregory made a motion to table the resolution for two weeks, arguing the council should wait for the letter from the Maryland State Highway Administration, but the council approved the legislation by a vote of 4-1 with Gregory as the only dissenting vote.
The land includes 3 separate parcels of around 1 acre at 65 Swallow Drive, one 9.5 acre parcel on Elkton Road and 49.4 acres at Belle Hill Road. The owners of the property, Preston and Laetitia Ayars, petitioned for annexation on June 16.
The annexation process began almost four years ago, when the previous county administration and the Ayars entered conversations about developing the property. According to Elkton Mayor Robert Alt, the county approached the Town of Elkton and asked if Elkton could service the area with water and sewer. The town declined the request, as the property had been zoned for residential properties.
“We felt like we didn’t have enough capacity in that part of our town to handle several hundred additional houses,” Alt said about the initial negotiations.
After talks with the county fell through, the Ayars approached Elkton in June with plans to rezone the property from a residential to a commercial property.
“The Town of Elkton was absolutely interested in having more commercial property in our town,” Alt said. “We could provide the services and the town could not, and that’s how it all started.”
Support for the annexation was unanimous when Town of Elkton boards met to discuss it. Alt noted that it was the decision to rezone the property that sparked the town’s interest in the annexation.
Although there are no concrete plans for the property yet, Alt said that Elkton plans to explore its options until it finds the right match for the property.
“It’s a prime location for business, industrial,” Alt said. “I’d love to see a hotel there. I think our hotels need to be upgraded.”
In regards to opposition to the annexation from the County Administrator and County Commissioners, Alt acknowledged the validity of the worries over the property and promised that it would not just turn into another strip mall or warehouse.
“It was a great concern,” Alt said. “The Town of Elkton will have control over that parcel now, and it will go through a lot of scrutiny, and we’ll make sure the right project is there. I think the administration is concerned it will just be warehouse after warehouse up there, and I don’t want to see that either.”
Alt also clarified that construction and road alterations that affect traffic in the area will be subject to studies before they are approved.
“Nothing can be done without traffic impact studies,” Alt said. “And there will be improvements to roads, which are absolutely needed.”