The Frederick County Council is looking at the site of a former aluminum smelting plant as a potential “community growth area” and “new town” under the Livable Frederick master plan.
The roughly 2,200-acre Eastalco property, just over 2 miles west of Buckeystown and 3 miles north of Adamstown, could be removed from the plan being discussed by the County Council.
Councilman Kai Hagen (D) wants to remove Eastalco from the “community growth area” list in Livable Frederick, which lists it and 13 other areas countywide where mixed-use, residential or commercial development may occur.
It also removes a large section that describes Eastalco as a “new town,” which identified a nearby rail spur that connects it to Point of Rocks and the MARC line to Washington, D.C.
Hagen said he wasn’t convinced the site would be a good place for transit-oriented development. He said that not enough trains run on that line and that CSX, the rail company that owns it, isn’t likely to offer more service in the near future.
Overall, the infrastructure in the Eastalco area — on Manor Woods Road just east of Md. 351 — isn’t in place to handle that much development, Hagen said.
“Putting a ‘new town’ on a map in the middle of an area without sufficient infrastructure on the doorstep of the community of Adamstown, which has worked very hard to accept a certain amount of carefully placed growth while preserving a sharp edge in agriculture ... it’s premature,” Hagen said.
Councilman Jerry Donald (D) disagreed. He noted the opportunities the Eastalco site represents. And it would take the pressure off other growth areas in the county.
“You could do all kinds of things there. You could do the houses so that they’re preset for solar [energy]. You could align them so that they’re maximized [for solar energy],” Donald said. “You could have so much walkability in a place like there. ... This is a new opportunity to start from scratch, and not have to retrofit into something else that we already have.”
Several residents in Adamstown and Buckeystown said Monday they hadn’t heard of the discussed labels for Eastalco in Livable Frederick. Some, however, said they wouldn’t mind some residential or commercial development, as long as infrastructure needs were met.
“As long as they have the infrastructure in place first, then I think it’s fine,” said Tony Fioravanti, who has lived in Adamstown for 17 years. Roads and traffic are a major concern, he added.
Ed Page has lived in the Adamstown area for more than seven decades. Page said he would prefer commercial development or single-family houses at the site.
“The more houses you have, the more traffic you’re going to get, and the more crowded the schools are,” Page said.
Merhl Mayne, a Buckeystown farmer, said he was mostly concerned with how environmental contamination could affect any future development.
Traffic — especially truck traffic — would also require widening roads near the Eastalco site.
“Manor Woods, New Design [Road] and Ballenger Creek [Pike] ... they’re two-lane roads, and they’re narrow. Where are they going to go?” Mayne said about increased truck traffic.
That was one of Councilman Steve McKay’s (R) main concerns.
“The concept that is portrayed right now is for a large new residential or mixed-use development in what is still very much a rural area of the county,” McKay said. “Other than its proximity to [U.S.] 15, we’d be signing up for a lot of improvement in road infrastructure between New Design Road and U.S. 15.”
McKay added Hagen’s amendment could be revised to remove “new town” but still include Eastalco as a “community growth area.” He said he had a preliminary conversation with Donald about that change.
No matter how the amendment is presented, county planning staff will present more information about Eastalco at Tuesday’s council meeting, including its overall history.
The site was an aluminum smelting plant on about 340 acres until it closed in December 2005, when more than 600 workers were laid off. Alcoa, which ran the plant, still owns the site and leases much of the remaining 1,860 acres to a local farmer.
Council members Jessica Fitzwater (D) and Phil Dacey (R) both said they want to hear that presentation before deciding on how to vote on Hagen’s amendment.
Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said Friday she understands Hagen’s concerns about how the Eastalco site might be developed.
She added, however, that keeping the site zoned for light industrial or general industrial is important, as unpredictability might prevent large companies from looking at the area for development.
The rail spur also provides a unique opportunity, Keegan-Ayer said.
“This particular spur ... the line is already there, it may need some improvements,” she said. “I think we can’t turn our nose up at that, it may not be perfect right now, but the right-of-way lines are there ... you don’t just walk away from that.”
The council meets Tuesday at Winchester Hall in Frederick at 5:30 p.m.