The Eastalco aluminum plant site between Buckeystown and Adamstown has been sitting idle for almost 10 years, and for about that long it has been the subject of the daydreams of developers and county planners.

The factory, which smelted aluminum for almost 40 years, was largely closed in 2005 and then torn down after 2010. Alcoa, the owner, put the land up for sale. A spokesman said last week the company has spent $40 million cleaning up the site and removing toxic waste.

Just a fairly short distance from the commercial and industrial development along Md. 85, it is tempting to think about what the site might become. So it has become part of the Livable Frederick Master Plan now moving toward adoption by the Frederick County Council, and it has once again the subject of some controversy.

The draft of the master plan identifies the site as the possible location for a “new town” mixed-use development. But councilmen Steve McKay (R) and Kai Hagen (D) say they are concerned about the label.

Others on the council, including President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and Jerry Donald (D), want to keep the language as is.

Both sides say they are concerned about protecting the prime agricultural land that surrounds the site. Only about 300 acres were used for the plant, but Alcoa owns an additional 2,000 acres surrounding the plant.

Council members differ about the better way to accomplish that goal. And both sides can make compelling arguments.

McKay tried and failed to persuade the council to replace the new town designation with language designed to promote commercial and industrial development, while preserving the farmland.

McKay said that he and Hagen know the area is going to see some residential development in the future. But he fears that creation of a new town might require the extension of Md. 80 to the site and the loss of even more farmland.

The master plan also suggests a possible extension of a spur of the MARC rail line to the Eastalco site, but Hagen said he does not see that as a viable option to increase transit access to the site. With Livable Frederick advocating more transit-oriented development, a new town at the rural Eastalco site looks like an anomaly.

But Donald made the point that if this language is not kept in the plan, Alcoa might sell off a lot of the farmland in pieces, and that could eventually lead to more sprawl. Reducing sprawl, after all, is a major goal of Livable Frederick.

Several residents of the area attended a public hearing on the plan to oppose the new town designation. Most said if it is included in the master plan, it will be difficult to change course in the future, even if officials were to decide a new town would not be appropriate.

Most of the opponents would like to have the entire site returned to agricultural use, but that is unlikely to happen. That battle was lost in 1970, when the aluminum plant was approved.

But it seems to us that designating Eastalco as a new town site in the Livable Frederick Master Plan goes too far. It can be identified as a future growth area but planners and county officials in the future should decide how it should be developed.

As Councilman Hagen told our reporter:

“It’s just not an option that we should be carving in stone right now as the preferred option of the county.”

(18) comments

gary4books

First things should be first to do and that means restoring the property to as close as we can get to "original state." If the company needs to pay more - bill them. Or pend what it takes. Then decide what to do with it. It is stupid to leave it polluted.

Burgessdr

McKay and Hagen are opposed to any housing anywhere anytime for any purpose not anywhere in Frederick.

TomWheatley

Not exactly. They are in favor of growth in the right places with decent roads and schools already or soon to be in place and not playing catch up. I have owned land here for 37 years and lived here for 32. I see the same formula used by developers over and over again and specifically in the towns with weaker AFPOs. (Looking at you, Frederick City). The County gets hit with the added road and school burden and then a land lawyer claims "Change in the neighborhood" which allows the County land next to a town to get developed, then annexed. You get the picture.

shiftless88

What I am not seeing is a clear expression of where that infrastructure exists, and the effort to expand it. The county is growing and will continue to grow. Let's get the infrastructure in now.

ad_s_towel

No. when I moved here, residential development on a large scale was stopped south of Elmer Derr road. This is a Natelli maneuver on an Alcoa land hedge to get thousands of units built. Why should we bail out a company for their bad land acquisition strategy?

richardlyons

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richardlyons

Let's see your a hotel proponent and now support a "new town". I'm guessing you are a developer/ friend of Natelli. Remove the language, NOW!

Builder68

Give Amazon a call. They're looking.

dtwigg

Downzone the property. It has been sitting vacant for many years. Ask yourself, what would Lenny Thompson do?

richardlyons

[thumbup]

TomWheatley

The presentation by the County staff had as the last bullet on the slide "No new zoning". I noted they never actually addressed that in finishing up the presentation. Eastalco is a combination of industrial, commercial, and ag, but not residential at all. Yet the designation of a New Town certainly implies a clear preference for residential zoning. I am still waiting to hear how the Staff is going to explain that last bullet.



And btw, "New Town" has existed since 1794 when the west end of Jefferson went in from Old Middletown Road towards Horine. Change the name and preferably get rid of it all together.

DickD

The 300 acres have been severely polluted and ther are barrels of pollution buried in the ground. It should never be part of "livable Frederick ".

FrederickFan

There is nothing fast about the Livable Frederick plan. There have been many public meetings. What seems most important is how will the plan move forward? Do citizens want this property to be kept for another big industrial business? That's what is in the plan now. Or do they want something different? How this moves forward is what will matter.

Reader1954

solar panel farm

TomWheatley

And coupled with a natural gas power plant to take advantage of the gas pipeline, power substation, and cooling water from the river. Makes good sense for the County's electricity needs and as such, we will build more houses instead.

gary4books

[thumbup]

ad_s_towel

We in the Adamstown area stopped the natural gas plant when Alcoa still smelted and we do not want it again. Solar and wind are phasing out gas simply due to market forces. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyinnovation/2019/07/10/utility-regulators-should-avoid-risky-bets-on-new-natural-gas/#19d4408174fa) Light industry? Fine.

Tigerzord

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

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