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

1912 Sanborn Map shows the old jail and the prison yard.

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.

Image from PowerPoint presented to the commissioners. It shows the developer’s preliminary concept.



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

  1. Seems like they want a little too much up front and don’t provide and proof they won’t screw it up and walk away from it.

    • John Elkton has a documented record of getting sued and having to settle cases when developers show up wanting things. A few years ago when they were building the last senior housing project, the developer wanted a bunch of regulations waived and some concessions. They jumped right on it, although it was obvious to anyone watching that they were violating their own procedures and practices for changing things and giving concessions to an individual firm. Some citizens took them to court and in the middle of the trial, the town decided it should settle the case with the citizens. We’ll see how they handle this one.

  2. keep the size the way it is. Don’t come into my town and try changing historical building as to the way you want them to look. This is our history and i would like to keep things looking the way they aways.
    larry spry

    • Larry, they sure aren’t preserving much of that old building, and the mayor and commissioners have practically turned North Street into one large parking lot now. It’s hard to figure out that there was once an old town there. This one looks as if they went out on 279 and are modeling it after the new hotel out there. It would make more sense to preserve the entire thing and bulding the modern addition in back of that.

  3. old elkton jail bird

    hey they got it backwards. tearing down the old part why do they keep that new part spent lot of time in that cell block.

    • Old Elkton Jail Bird, actually both sections, the brick front and the granite back are equally historic. Those sections were built in 1871, as the county’s modern lockup as it was replacing one from the colonial era. Old 19h century jails are particularly historic structures these days. So many of them have been lost on the Eastern Shore and there are only about three remaining. Down in Princess Anne, the Mayor and Commissioners and the county preserved that one and for adaptive resue its now the city police station. It was a very practical approach. We’ll see what the Elkton Historic District and the Mayor and Commissioners do with this one.

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