Muckraker: Eldersburg citizens reject big storage facility: “It feels like you don’t care about the neighbors”
This article brought to you by Maryland Muckraker.
On Tuesday night, Carroll County’s District 5 Commissioner Ed Rothstein hosted a Community Outreach meeting at the South Carroll Senior Center to discuss a proposed 4-story, 50-foot-tall, 100,000 square-foot storage facility that is under contract to be built in Eldersburg on a commercial plot surrounded by residences between Carroll Highlands Road and Panorama Drive off Route 26.
Commissioner and developers
This comes just a couple weeks after the Carroll Observer reported a conflict of interest involving the Commissioner and developers, when it was revealed a former campaign contributor of Rothstein’s, St. John Properties, is now requesting a commercial zoning change in the District so they can build-up the grassy commercial plot across from Liberty Exchange, the shopping center with the 1623 Brewing Company and Basta Pasta.
Getting out in front of any perceived conflict of interest regarding the storage facility’s development, Rothstein confirmed during Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners Open Session meeting that he has “absolutely not” received any contributions from Mike Castellitto with Broad Reach Retail Partners, the developer under contract to build the sky-scraping storage facility.
And that appears to be true. But what is also true, is that one of the sellers of the property, Nick Pirone with Pirone Investments LLC, is-in-fact a former contributor to Commissioner Rothstein’s campaign through an LLC called Robyn Properties Incorporated, which Pirone is the President of according to his Linkedin profile.
Citizens harshly reject storage facility
In the room at the Senior Center on Tuesday were a couple-hundred frustrated residents, ranging from the white-haired elderly to young parents with toddlers in tote and everything in between. Rothstein started the meeting with the pledge of allegiance, before sharing he is former-military as he explained his philosophy on service and the importance of rights to free-speech and assembly.
From thereon, Rothstein mostly deferred to Castellitto, who absorbed the majority of the community’s anger, even having his manhood challenged at one point: Would you want this in your neighborhood? Your own backyard? Would you?! Answer it. Be a man!
It took Eldersburg resident Robert McCarthy’s comments to shift the public’s focus back towards the County and the Commissioners. McCarthy clarified: “The anger should be directed to the County. The County should have said, ‘No, you’re not going to develop a four-story building.’”.
Indeed it was the County’s Planning Commission and a previous Board of County Commissioners who, despite broader resistance from then Commissioners Rothschild and Howard, allowed for a portion of the plot to be rezoned from residential to commercial-medium as part of the 2018 Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan, thus unlocking the potential for a storage facility of such magnitude to be built there in the first place. That coupled with the fact that the remainder of the plot had been zoned commercially since the 1960s.
Potentially catching the developer in non-compliance with County code was Kathy Martin, who read aloud the regulations governing self-storage facilities, one of which requires them to be screened from view offsite so as not to be an eyesore all the time. “I would like to know how you plan to screen from view a structure that is on a hill, that is fifty feet tall”, she asked, drawing immediate applause.
Not long after, Nancy Lynch, whose own home would sit mere feet from the planned structure, spoke while her husband Joe held up a visual to show just how visible the sky-scraping storage facility would be, setting the skyline as far West as 32 and as far East as Liberty Reservoir down 26. She said that ever since the 2018 zoning change: “It feels like you don’t care about the neighbors”.