The Cecil Whig has seen, heard and read many of the public’s questions about Southfields. The project is in the early stages of development. Here’s a look at our exploration of some of the answers while we continue our coverage.
What is Southfields?
Southfields is a mixed-use development in southern Elkton that includes light industrial, single-family homes, apartments, retail and recreation. The entire project is 650 acres in size and runs south of White Hall Road to Frenchtown Road, between the Elk River and Maloney Road. The entire property is within Elkton’s borders.
Who is developing it?
Stonewall Capital is currently in the process of buying the property. The principal owner of Stonewall Capital is Ray Jackson, a Monkton-based developer.
Jackson has signed on with Trammell Crow, a fortune 200 company, to develop and build the light industrial portion. He also is working with an unknown “national home builder” to develop the residential portion. He has also signed on with an unknown “local developer” for the recreation portion.
What is the breakdown of industrial, residential, recreational and commercial?
So far, Jackson and his engineering firm Morris & Ritchie have released a concept plan. It’s important to note that this plan can change, as it has in the last month.
At the moment, Southfields includes 250 acres for light industrial use. The concept plan shows that 4.3 million square feet of floor space would be allowed, but Jackson said this week that he is looking at 3 million square-foot logistics warehouse and commercial space. It also includes a buffer from the industrial facing Frenchtown Road.
For residential use, Southfields would include between 800 to 850 homes. The land can allow up to 1,000 homes. Jackson is proposing single family homes east of Route 213, an apartment complex with amenities like a pool and a clubhouse west of 213, and another single-family home community west on Frenchtown Road.
In addition, 50 acres is also planned for privately-financed recreation complex. That includes 15 fields for soccer and lacrosse fields as well as a baseball diamond. The idea is to use that land for regional sports events, as well as the Elkton Little League games according to town officials.
The concept plan revealed to the public includes around 190 acres for open space, which includes wetlands and walking trails. Jackson is also planning retail spots, including brand hotels and fast-casual dining options on the west side of 213.
Jackson had proposed a marina and condominiums near the Elk River, but he said that land would be planned out as a second phase. Jackson also said he could potentially donate the land to create a public pavilion, marina or a park.
Why does it include industrial development?
Jackson’s vision is that all elements of Southfields have to work “in concert” with each other. His belief is that the job creation from the industrial portion would feed the need for residences, and in turn shopping nearby.
What type of industrial use will go in this project?
Jackson said this week that he was in negotiations with a number of tenants. He also said that this will be a logistics center, which focuses on the planning, coordination and the improvement of process of moving product. He added this will not include heavy industrial use industries that use heavy machinery.
What was permitted on the land before Southfields?
The land is zoned high-density residential. Before this project, it was earmarked for 2,500 homes with no light industrial, retail or recreation use.
How soon will this be built?
At the moment, Jackson is still in his due-diligence phase of purchasing the land. It would be a three to five year project, he said this week. The first phase would be the industrial use, then the single family community east of 213.
Is this a “done deal?”
Jackson is purchasing the property. However, he is required to have all plans approved by Elkton Planning Department, and in turn the Planning Commission.
What is the process?
All plans for Southfields has to go through preliminary and final approval before the Planning Commission which entails months of meetings in the future. The Planning Commission will have to vote on these plans.
But since this project is a first-ever mixed-use development, the town Planning officials has to craft language for an overlay zone called Planned Use Development (PUD). That language will lay out requirements Southfields and any potential project like it.
Elkton Planning Department has prepared a draft of PUD language, and it will be discussed before the Planning Commission on Sept. 16. When the Planning Commission approves the language, it will be put to the Mayor and Commissioners for a vote in a public hearing.
What is the effect on wetlands?
Elkton owns 124 acres of wetlands neighboring Southfields property west of 213, after it was placed under a Maryland Environmental Trust easement. Jackson recognizes that some of the Southfields land could be critical area, and said he will be working with the MDE and the necessary regulators.
What is the effect on traffic?
Route 213 is a major road that attracts an average of 20,000 vehicles a day. The town’s planning process requires Jackson to conduct a traffic impact study with the Maryland State Highway Administration, Cecil County government and the town of Elkton.
What is the effect on schools?
The potential Southfields residences will be in the Bohemia Manor feeder pattern, which would currently include Holly Hall Elementary School, Bohemia Manor Middle School and Bohemia Manor High School. The capacity at HHES is 624 students, while BMMS is 601 students and BMHS is 643 students. Much like other schools in the county, some rely on portable classrooms.
Cecil County Public School officials said that capacity is one of many factors when considered when it looks at building a school. CCPS officials plan on working with the town as project develops.
What incentives is Southfields offered?
Southfields is in a federally-designated opportunity zone. Opportunity Zones entice investors to infuse money into funds for prolonged periods of time to see tax breaks. Staying in an Opportunity Zone fund for at least five years could see 10% of the gain excluded from taxes, while 10 years results in tax-free gains.
Part Southfields is is also in state-designated Enterprise Zone program.That provides real property tax credits against increases in assessments for up to 10 years for those that make investments in the property. It also includes a state income tax breaks, and businesses could claim a one-year credit per employee in new positions. That credit is generally $1,000 but can increase if the worker is economically disadvantaged.
Cecil County is seeking to request the state that it expand the Enterprise Zone to the industrial part of the property.
Finally, Elkton has also waived for water and sewer connection fees as well as front-foot assessment costs until June 2022.
Can this go to a referendum?
The public can request a referendum, or a direct vote on a proposal, on an ordinance that is adopted if a petition is filed 20 days prior to its effective date. The only aspect of Southfields that is passed through an ordinance is the PUD language. The PUD language has yet to be proposed as an ordinance.
Referendum petitions require 20 percent of the qualified voters of the town.