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.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(33) comments

niceund

NO MORE HOUSES! Plus, who knows what kind of chemicals are buried there?

matts853

Once again the mindset of what to do with an open parcel of land jumps straight to development. Haven’t we learned that too much growth is bad. What’s wrong with pumping the breaks and designating this land as Ag or, and here’s a novel idea - resource conservation and reforest it. It’s in a prime location to serve as part of wildlife corridor. But oh no, there’s no money in that. And therein lies the ever present problem of someone needs to make a buck off the land. With everything that’s going on with climate change, pollution, loss off green space, and extinction of species we just can’t ween ourselves off the never ending drive for growth simply because some people won’t profit off the land. We just keep compounding our problems.

richardlyons

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KellyAlzan

How bout make it into a pot farm? Liberals would support it fa sure

KellyAlzan

Perfect site for a Nascar track. A dragstrip. And any other motorsports. pleanty of room for gas stations, hotels, and restaurants, and police station, and liquor / pot stores

Moon otter

There needs to be done a complete environmental assessment of the area. Personally keep it agricultural except the portion that the east alco plant was located, it stays industrial. So I wonder where they put their waste all these years?

MD1756

You couldn't pay me to live on that land. From the MDE: https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/LAND/MarylandBrownfieldVCP/Documents/Former%20Alcoa%20Eastalco.pdf Who knows if they've identified all of the contamination and cleaned it all up. Some cleanup has occurred but monitoring is still required. Excerpt from the Report: "Between 2012 thru 2014, Alcoa completed additional site characterization activities and designated approximately a 200 acre area where additional environmental requirement had to be completed to manage residual PAH, PCB and inorganic contamination in soil, surface water and groundwater. A Site Management Plan (SMP) was proposed to manage residual contamination on Site and was approved in 2017. The SMP as well as other Site specific restrictions were implemented through the recording of an Environmental Covenant (EC) in the Frederick County Land records on December 29, 2017. The EC requires current and future owners of the Site to adhere to the Site wide land and groundwater use restrictions, continue maintenance and monitoring of remediation measures including engineering controls already implemented on Site, continue long term groundwater and surface water monitoring and implement the approved SMP during any activity in the soil management area. With the implementation of the EC, the ACO (ACO-07-026) was deactivated."

girlpolitic

You hit the nail on the head! Of course the County Council could be attempting to create Frederick County's version of the "Love Canal."

niles_johson

Schools were already redistricted to bring the Linton kids in and kick the Point of Rocks kids out so who pays for the new schools?

niles_johson

Even Blaine & the boys never reneged on the "no new major building south of Elmer Derr" and they bent over backwards to accommodate developers.

shiftless88

While I am not a big growth person, it is important to note that this is not a greenfield site.

dtwigg

The development of the East Alcoa property would just ne another nail in the coffin for farmers in the area. I didn't notice one mention in the article about how the traffic would affect farmers. It's a really bad idea to develop it for houses OR for industrial use.

shiftless88

The land was already lost to farming many years ago when the plant was built so I do not understand your comment. The property is close to both 85 and 15. Not sure how that traffic would substantially impact farmers in particular. But on the other hand, farmers in the area will see the writing on the wall. Substantial farmland in this area will last another 20-30 years but it is going to be a steady downward trend (which you can blame on the farmers since they own the land and development won't happen unless they sell).

richardlyons

Not so. Most of the Alcoa property probably 90% was an agricultural buffer surrounding the smelters. This land has been leased to local farmers for 50 years. Drive down Manor Woods Road today and see the soybean and corn crop flourishing. So no, the land has not been "lost to farming" . Do your homework.

wran

You are right. There was a lot of agriculture activity on the ESTALCO property. My next door neighbor was an manager at the plant. I was on the plant site many times with him and we once toured the agricultural areas, which were most of the plant site.

shiftless88

Was it stated that all 2200 acres would be made into housing? I do not see that part.

niles_johson

Only 200 acres were lost to industrial. The total is 2,200 acres.

elymus43

This should stay in agricultural use. They probably will run studies, and then it will be MORE HOUSES. People need farm land for food, and not more houses.

KR999

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shiftless88

People need to live somewhere. People need to quit pumping out chitlins

Comment deleted.
shiftless88

Sorry, that was supposed to be chillins

DickD

New Design Road intersects Manor Woods Rd just past St. Joseph's Church, going towards Adamstown. The church is very historic being part of the old Carroll estate. The original church was built in 1811 and burned during the Civil War. The roads are narrow and Buckeystown can't handle a lot of traffic either. If that area is going to be built up there needs to be a study of the soil for contamination, due to East Alcoa"s operations. And Manor Woods Rd would need to be widened, regraded and the train tracks crossing Manor Woods Rd. removed or a over pass put in. Sure, the tracks are there, but the only usable part is the right of way. And this is prime agriculture land you are talking about ruining. Why worry about solar and put all of the silly restrictions on solar and then allow this land to be developed.

shiftless88

You would definitely have to upgrade Manor road and it's intersection with 85 in Buckeystown, and perhaps a bit of Mountville rd. I do not see the need for an overpass at the train tracks; they cross several roads in the area with at least as much traffic as this would have.

richardlyons

Never heard of our parish church being burned down Dick. But I agree that our church long predated Alcoa/Eastalco. The land is pristine agricultural land and I believe should remain as such. A solar farm might make sense if done properly. Our parish which is surrounded by the Alcoa property will have a say in what happens there.

shiftless88

richard, the land is anything BUT pristine. It has potential as agriculture, perhaps (depends on the soil pollution) but it is the opposite of pristine at the moment.

richardlyons

The plant proper would require substantial remediation but not the other 1800 acres which has always been an ag buffer around the plant. Do your homework before popping off.

DickD

Lost part of this. The church was burned by a Confederate force, during the Civil War. The picture, back of the altar had smoke damage. Photos below show the old church and the interior with the picture behind the altar. Richard, go on the web site below and you can see photos of the old church and the inside, with the painting behind the altar.  It is down about 20 pictures. All are interesting.  I am not the writer. https://rsftripreporter.net/a-z4-tour-of-maryland-relics/"St. Joseph’s church has served the Carrollton Manor area since the early 1800s. The present church was built in 1871 with funds donated by Charles Carroll’s great-granddaughter, Emily Louisa Harper. Unlike the manor, which is now owned by the Alcoa aluminum company, the church welcomes all."  "The Buckeystown Dam was built long ago to help supply a steady stream of water power to the town’s mills. By the late 1950s, floods had largely destroyed the dam. In an historical conservation project, the Monocacy Canoe Club rebuilt the dam—with the help of an 11-year-old me, my older brother Curt, and our Dad Wally, who co-founded the canoe club. The reconstructed dam is still doing nicely after all these years, although the heavy rains from the prior day raised the Monocacy’s water level to the point that it largely covered the dam. It seems to have made for a great day of tubing, for the sufficiently brave. visitors. ""

shiftless88

okay richard, so SOME of the land is "pristine", but not all of it. Heck, have you looked at the satellite picture of it lately?

richardlyons

I guess we will have to disagree shifty. I have always been thankful that the ag buffer was part of the deal with Eastalco back in 1970. St. Joseph's and the plant have been good neighbors for 50 years. The plant is gone and the 200 or so acres where the smelters were located need serious remediation before anything else goes in there.

DickD

hewn timbers. I once found a 10 gauge shot gun shell there, when we were building the walk from the old church to the parking lot, over towards the East Alcoa plant.

Reader1954

a solar panel farm would be an excellent idea

KMRD1

Put solar panels there. Great place for them. Infrastructure of roads is not the only problem for this site, but adding county water and sewer. I wouldn’t drink the ground water there so wells are out of the question. That ground is probably tainted with chemicals as bad as Ft Detrick.

KR999

That’s why I would have thought an environmental study and assessment would need to be done before any kind of development could be considered.

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