Cecilton keeps focus on further growth
jowens@ cecilwhig. com
— One year after the county’s southernmost town saw a dramatic population increase from the Parklands at Cecilton complex opening, its leaders are continuing to keep their eyes on further growth.
Cecilton Mayor Joe Zang has had recent meetings with Frank Hodgetts, president of Home Partnerships Inc., a facilitator of multi- family housing development that also completed the North Street Residences project in Elkton, about a senior housing project in town.
While the first public conversations about a senior housing project in Cecilton date back to December 2014, Zang said town officials continue to talk with Home Partnerships about a project that would be mutually beneficial.
“We’re working through some technical issues, but we’re still pursuing it,” he said Monday.
The plan, as presented in 2014, is to build a 44- unit senior apartment complex for those 62 and older. The buildings would be singlestory flats with garages, and include a 2,800- squarefoot clubhouse.
“It would be kind of like Earleton Village, but a little bit different of a design,” Zang said.
According to minutes from the town council’s Feb. 22 meeting, Hodgetts
reportedly told the town that Home Partnerships has received a state grant to start the design process on the project to be located where the current Head Start building is situated at 223 S. Bohemia Ave.
“Part of that plan is to demolish the Head Start building and then create a new Head Start building in the back of the property that will function as a community center/ Head Start,” the minutes report.
Zang said the town has been in contact with Head Start officials about that proposal and they’re excited about the prospect of getting a new building. Head Start, an early childhood development pro- gram for low- income families, currently inhabits the former Levi J. Coppin School, an African- American schoolhouse built in 1950 that was one of the last to desegregate in the county.
“The idea would be to complement the new building with the older structure’s history and features,” said Zang, explaining that may include using some of the interior brick of the building or displaying photos of the building’s history. “We’d like to keep the histor y of the building alive without saving the entire building. It would be a waste of money to tr y to fix up the old building when we could build something more energy- efficient.”
While the project is currently moving forward utilizing about 8 acres of town- owned land that the Head Start building and the town water tower sit on, the preferred location would be a 6- acre parcel to the west of that land off Rickards Street, Zang said.
That parcel, owned by Fifty- Five Plus, a limited liability corporation founded by Elkton developer Ken Simmons, according to tax records, is the site of a stalled development. Assessed last year at $ 178,500, that parcel is worth significantly less than the town- owned parcel, assessed at about $ 1.8 million.
Even if the project is forced to proceed on the town- owned land, Zang said officials would be willing to do so to bring new resources to the town.
“It’s not about making money for the town, but getting land in a position where a developer can be successful,” he said. “The benefits to the town are long- term after a new project has been completed.”
When reached Tuesday, Hodgetts said he was not yet able to share many details on the progress made by Home Partnerships with the Cecilton project.
“Right now, we’re just tr ying to find out if a sufficient market and a feasible space exist in town, and if it does then we’ll pursue it,” he said.
The current plan is to develop the highlighted town-owned parcel off South Bohemia Avenue, but town officials would rather see it occur on a privately-owned parcel to the west off Rickards Street.