Developer Interested in Old Cecil County Jail Asks Elkton for Financial Considerations and Change in Zoning Ordinance

A day before a nonprofit affordable housing group is scheduled to appear before the Elkton Historical and Architectural Review Committee (HARC) to present plans for the old jail at 214 North Street, the developer met with the Mayor and Commissioners.  Frank Hodgetts, representing Home Partnership, outlined plans to build a 50-unit age restricted multi-family housing apartments on the 1.12 acre parcel.

To allow the project to go forward, he asked the town to modify its historic district zoning regulation, which stipulates that a project can’t increase the size of an old structure by more than 25%.  Suggested language for the code revision was submitted, which apparently eliminates the size restriction but says that the work must be in keeping with the architectural nature of the project.  “You’ve pulled out the stinger so to speak, but you are still giving them some claws,” Lewis George, the town administrator remarked.

Home Partnership also noted that they are going to ask for financial considerations.  Specifically, they will seek relief from about half of the property taxes for ten years.  It was estimated that the property would generated $18,250 in revenue for local government.  And they will ask that various permit and inspection fees be waived.

The concept plan calls for keeping the front façade and building the 50 unit modern structure in the the rear of that.  When an official asked about the history of the building, Hodgetts replied “We don’t know exactly what’s historic yet.”

The 1871 structure has two sections.  In front, the two story pressed brick wing facing North Street contained the sheriff’s house, office and the dining room.  In back, the portion with thick, solid granite walls was where the prisoners were securely detailed.  Somehow the post-Civil War lockup managed to outlive its usefulness to the county in a mere 128 years so in 1984 inmates moved to the new detention center on Landing Lane.

Town Administrator George wrapped things up by noting the process required to change a zoning ordinance.  HARC, the board charged with protecting Elkton’s architectural and cultural resources, will get their first chance to formally hear the proposal at a meeting Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the town hall.

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