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Gerstell Academy founder Dr. Fred Gerstell Smith wants the community’s support on his plan to build a business park to help fund the academy, but Finksburg residents say that they can’t support something without more details.

Smith spoke Thursday at the Finksburg Planning and Citizens’ Council meeting to lay out his plan, and said it’s important for the academy — a private school for grades one through 12 — to have options for its future.

“Don’t put us in a position at Gerstell Academy where we can’t do something down the road,” he said.

Smith said he would like to build a business park — using the same Georgian architecture as the school — beside Gerstell Academy on 92 acres owned by the Freven Foundation, which runs the school.

That plan is something that could be done anywhere from five to 20 years from now, he said.

The academy is an independent non-profit college preparatory school, which means it does not tap into taxpayer money, unlike some private schools, he said. About 75 percent of the cost is paid by tuition and 25 percent is made up through donations and other income, Smith said.

The land targeted for a buisness park is currently zoned for conservation, which would allow for some homes to be built. But Smith said he’s not interested in that option. Instead, he’s seeking a rezoning for office park and employment space under new zoning regulations currently under consideration by Carroll County, or designated for employment development under current zoning.

The business park would use environmentally-friendly construction, he said.

FPACC President John Lopez and other residents said they’re concerned about potential uses that are allowed in the employment zoning, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, parking garages, fast-food restaurants and hotels.

Residents said that without seeing a site plan for what Smith envisions, it’s hard for some people to accept.

“What the community wants is predictability of potential uses,” Lopez said after the meeting.

Smith said he understands the residents’ concerns, and said perhaps the foundation and a developer could sign an agreement over what uses would not be allowed in the business park.

He said the business park should support the mission of the school.

“I’m extremely concerned of what goes there,” he said.

Finksburg resident Johanna Burns said she liked what she heard.

“At least you have control over the developer you put there,” she said. “I admire your vision.”

Building a business park to support a school is not unheard of. For instance, the McDonogh School in Owings Mills also has income from a neighboring business park.

Smith said the business campus may be a future financial resource for the school, but he noted that the other property he owns next to the campus —  Todd Village Mobile Home Park — is the present day income generator.

He said currently, any deficit at Gerstell is closed through income made by Todd Village, which is located right beside the school along Old Westminster Pike.
“The trailer park is not going anywhere,” he said, adding that it’s both financial reasons — and because he does not want to take people’s homes away from them.

user comments (3)


user fleadhcmm says...

I grew up across from the cornfield that is the property upon which Gerstell Academy now sits. It is RIDICULOUS that this developer, who used pretty ham-handed techniques to get the school itself approved, now wants to put a BUSINESS PARK


user fleadhcmm says...

on property that is zoned as CONSERVATION land. The only place that he could put the park is in the woods off of Brown Road, or replace Todd Village on Old Westminster Pike. Since he's put the latter off the table, it seems he's planning on developing a parcel of land that surrounds Roaring Run, a beautiful little stream that leads into the resevoir. I think "good for Mr. Smith, that he has opened a school (that costs almost 20K per year in tuition, btw), but it's absolutely wrong that he wants to destroy the last vestiges of bucolic life in Finksburg to support that school -- a vanity project if I ever saw one. Ridiculous, and I'm sure that the corrupt County Commissioners will see their way clear to approve the development -- they haven't met a well-heeled property developer yet that they don't like.


user jamadan says...

On the one hand, I can't afford to send my kids to a private school like that, so I could care less about what Dr. Smith needs to keep the school running. Sounds to me like he's created a product (the school) at a price that can't sustain itself - a bad business move. That said, providing no one suggests Finksburg help pay for anything - a proposal I would strongly resist - then if he can use the land in a tasteful way to generate more income, then there's no reason to oppose it. In fact, it would be nice if the businesses established could benefit the community and not just the school. Being able to restrict what kinds of businesses Finksburg doesn't want sounds like a reasonable compromise. Change and growth will happen folks. It's better to manage and control it than to try to stop it. Carroll County's ill-advised and implemented restrictions on development in this past 6 years is what led to skyrocket real estate prices and at least one major extremely costly lawsuit that we're paying for thanks to the ineptitude of our commissioners.


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