Harford County’s Draft 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan, unveiled on Columbus Day, is intended to help “accommodate and focus growth” and serve as a policy guide to “ensure a coordinated and harmonious relationship between existing and anticipated land uses,” but the document also gives a glimpse into trends and paths in which local government foresees Harford County growing.
Among the highlights and figures to immediately jump out of the plans, Harford County has about 27 years of housing capacity left within the Development Envelope (not including municipal annexation/expansion or build-out of agricultural land); population projections expect an increase of 35,600 people in Harford County between 2015 and 2035 with a population of 292,620 projected for 2035; and Harford is expected to get much older – with a 145% increase in the 85 and older age group by 2035.
The complete draft 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan can be downloaded and read here.
Overview of 2012 Plan
The 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan follow a slightly different format than previous plans.
The Master Plan begins by presenting a profile of Harford County, ranging from the history of planning in the County to current demographic data. It then details the relationship between the Land Use Element Plan and the other element plans, and explains the relationship and influence that various State and regional planning initiatives have on local planning efforts. Building on these State and regional initiatives, the Plan identifies an overall plan, goal and series of Guiding Principles. These Guiding Principles form the foundation for the Land Use Element Plan, and in effect provide Harford County’ s vision for sustainability through growth management and resource conservation.
Because the majority of the Element Plans were updated in 2009 and 2010, the Land Use section of this document focuses on four topical areas. These are: Land Use – how growth is managed inside and outside of the designated growth areas; Economic Prosperity – how to address a changing economy; Public Facilities, Services, and Safety – ensuring that needed facilities and services are provided in a timely and cost efficient manner that supports a healthy lifestyle; and Sustainability – ensuring that the County is working to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
In order to monitor the progress of the Plan’s implementation, the Department of Planning and Zoning will prepare a report every year identifying accomplishments, issues needing resolution, and recommendations for updating the Plan. A similar report will be prepared for each of the element plans under the purview of the Department of Planning and Zoning. These reports serve as the foundation for several other required reporting activities. These include Annual Growth Reports as required by the County’s Adequate Public Facilities legislation, and the State’s Smart, Green and Growing legislation. In addition, monitoring the implementation of the Plan is reflected in the County’s recertification application to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.
The plan indicates there are 24,179 residential units, or roughly 27 years worth of building capacity remaining within the current Development Envelope, though, that’s not counting more than 6,000 additional units possible through municipal annexations of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace or more than 8,600 units available in the rural area of the County.
DEVELOPMENT ENVELOPE RESIDENTIAL LAND CAPACITY
As part of the 2012 Master Plan, a comprehensive inventory of residential land was completed in December 2010 to determine the remaining building capacity of the Development Envelope. The Harford County Residential Land Study for the Development Envelope evaluated data from four categories: approved preliminary plans with un-built units, potential capacity of undeveloped land, municipal undeveloped land, and potential residential mixed use development to estimate the remaining capacity within the Development Envelope. The methodology used to quantify this potential is provided in the study.
Based on the analysis preformed, there is an estimated capacity of approximately 24,179 residential units within the current Development Envelope. The breakdown of units by category is as follows:
4,635 Plan approved but un-built dwelling units
11,683 Potential dwelling units from vacant undeveloped land
5,096 Potential dwelling units from municipalities: Aberdeen, Bel Air, Havre de Grace
2,765 Potential residential mixed use dwelling units
In addition to these numbers, Aberdeen, Bel Air, and Havre de Grace have identified adjacent areas for possible annexation in their Municipal Growth Element Plans. The cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace are each served by their own water and sewer facilities and the development of the area between the cities will be dependent on a cooperative agreement to ensure that adequate water and sewer service is available. These possible annexations could substantially increase the potential residential unit holding capacities in this area of the County. Based on the most recent plan updates of these cities, a maximum yield of about 6,200 units is estimated.
To determine the countywide build-out rate, current population projections and historic trends in growth are taken into consideration. This analysis resulted in a projected build-out rate of 1,100 new residential units a year even though recent activity has been lower. Based on past trends that resulted in an average of 82% (902 units) of the new units each year being located within the Development Envelope, there is sufficient capacity to last about 27 years.
AGRICULTURAL LAND RESIDENTIAL LAND CAPACITY
An inventory of the development potential of the land in the rural area of the County was completed in early 2011. The Harford County Agricultural Land Study included land outside of the Development Envelope that is zoned Agricultural, Village Residential or Rural Residential. Based on the analysis, there is an estimated capacity of 8,618 units available in the rural area of the County. The breakdown of the estimated capacities is as follows:
6,643 Total Agricultural zoned capacity
1,570 Rural Residential zoned capacity
405 Village Residential zoned capacity
It is not the County’s intent to promote growth in these rural areas. The Plan does, however, recognize that some growth will occur outside of the designated growth areas. The Plan’s policy is that this growth should, as much as possible, be directed to the Rural Villages, and that only minimal
development occur outside of the designated growth areas.
The following links lead to detailed reports for each of the 13 community areas designated in the Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan. We’ve pulled out a relevant passage for each:
Greater Aberdeen-Havre de Grace Community Area – “Much of the area south of I-95 and adjacent to the municipalities has been within the County’s Development Envelope, and this is where new growth and redevelopment should be directed. The Development Envelope portion of the community area south of I-95 was expanded in this Plan to include approximately 1,080 acres between Chapel Road and MD Route 155. The inclusion of this area into the Development Envelope supports the Municipal Growth Elements for the cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.”
Abingdon-Emmorton Community Area – “Abingdon/Emmorton has also been selected as the location of the County’s new Center for the Visual and Performing Arts because of its central, accessible location. This facility will be located on the second parcel of the Graham property that lies between MD Route 24 and Tollgate Road and is 42.5 acres in size. This area may be used for a community facility because of its close proximity to Abingdon Library and Emmorton Elementary School and recreation site. This would create an educational/cultural “downtown” area for the Abingdon-Emmorton Community Area.”
Greater Bel Air Community Area – “The Town of Bel Air still serves as the primary focal point in this Community Area; therefore it is important that the State, County and Town continue to coordinate planning efforts. When the Town of Bel Air updated its Comprehensive Plan in 2009, it included a municipal growth element and a water resources element as required by House Bill 1141. These sections were prepared in coordination with the County. Possible annexations are identified in the Plan. Coordination will be needed when these annexations are proposed to ensure development between the Town and County is compatible and interconnected. The Town also adopted new Development Regulations in 2010. A major component of this update was to bring the Zoning Code closer to a form based approach and to strengthen the gateway districts into the Town.”
Bush River Community Area – “As the population in the community area continues to increase, the need for additional public facilities will need to be carefully monitored and addressed. The community recognizes the potential need for a school within the area and increased recreational opportunities including an activity center along with improvements to its transportation network.”
Churchville-Creswell Community Area – “Harford Community College, located at the intersection of Thomas Run Road and MD Route 22, has over 9,700 registered students and provides a range of educational options. Plans are in progress to expand this facility to the west side of Thomas Run Road, with a possible satellite campus for Towson University. To accommodate this planned future growth, the HCC designation on the Land Use Map now encompasses this area. These campuses would share many of the existing facilities including the library, bookstore, dining hall and gym. This expansion will increase vehicular traffic arriving at the College, and pedestrian activity in the vicinity of the College.”
Dublin-Darlington Community Area – “Within Dublin-Darlington there are seven source water protection areas identified. These include four community water supplies, two school water supplies and the Darlington community water supply. Current regulation prohibits new impervious surfaces within 100 feet of a wellhead. Attention needs to be given to limiting future development and impervious cover within the remainder of the designated water supply boundaries to ensure the continued availability of clean drinking water to these communities.”
Edgewood Community Area – “The community and local commuters are also concerned about the Edgewood MARC station. The Edgewood station is one of only two stations in Harford County. Therefore, this station should be a gateway to the community and service should be connected to local transit services. Construction of new station facilities, along with redeveloping the surrounding area could turn this into a transportation hub, encouraging increased ridership and providing a positive impression to the community and transit users.”
Fallston Community Area – “This community area also contains a small portion of the Development Envelope along the U.S. Route 1 corridor from MD Route 152, east to Bel Air. The Development Envelope boundary has undergone a minor adjustment along the commercial corridor to reflect existing zoning and to help address septic system problems. This area is adjacent to the Fallston Sanitary Subdistrict.”
Forest Hill Community Area – “Employment and residential activities will be focused in the southeastern portion of the community between the Village of Forest Hill, and the crossroads of Hickory. This development will continue to lessen the distinction between the Rural Village and the adjoining suburban area, making the preservation and vitality of the Village increasingly important to maintaining the charm of Forest Hill. This Plan no longer designates a Rural Residential area in the Forest Hill Community Area. Instead it maintains a boundary of suburban and rural land uses to protect history, the agricultural industry, and the environment.”
Jarrettsville Community Area – “Increasing traffic on both State and local roads throughout the community area is a concern. Much of this traffic is traveling through to other parts of Harford County or Baltimore County and Pennsylvania. Keeping the area designated as agricultural should help minimize any additional impacts by traffic. Roadway improvements should be limited to routine maintenance or to upgrades needed to only support community generated traffic.”
Joppa-Joppatowne Community Area – “An employment center has been designated along the MD Route 7 corridor east of Joppa Road to MD Route 152. The community envisions a strategically located high?end office, research and industrial mixed use community surrounded by services, institutional, and residential uses. Currently this area is a mix of existing service, industrial, and residential uses along with some undeveloped properties. As this area develops it will be important to provide the necessary infrastructure and connections to surrounding communities. Existing retail services are locating at the intersection of MD Routes 7 and 152.”
Norrisville Community Area – “Development pressure is generally low in Norrisville because of its remote location and environmental and agricultural qualities. However, as growth continues in portions of Baltimore County and southern York County Pennsylvania, development pressure may begin to increase in the Norrisville Community Area. Traffic volumes need to be monitored, especially along the existing State routes that connect Harford County to I-83. No transportation infrastructure improvements are supported except for general roadway maintenance or to upgrade existing local roads and bridge crossings if warranted by community generated traffic or safety issues.”
Whiteford-Cardiff-Pylesville-Street Community Area – “As a whole, the community needs additional park and recreation facilities, therefore the procurement of land for future recreational opportunities should be explored. The community supports the construction of a Ma & Pa trail segment from the Pennsylvania line south to MD Route 543 thereby creating an opportunity to site a recreational facility along the proposed alignment.”
A video introducing and providing an overview of Harford County’s Draft 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan can be viewed below:
Finally, there is yet an opportunity for public review of the draft Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan during an informational workshop to be held Thursday, October 20 in the Harford Community College’s Chesapeake Center Dining Room from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Participants are welcome to stop in anytime during this period. A series of stations will be displayed to provide information about the Draft Plan’s various sections including mapping, strategies, community areas and implementation. Written comments will be accepted at the workshop as well as online.
Ron Chapman says
Good wrap up on this and will definitely look at the sections in more detail. The Edgewood MARC and surrounding area definitely need a serious redevelopment if we are going to link it to the BRAC and technology centers at both Aberdeen and Edgewood Arsenal. Look forward to see what the county does with those roads and adjacent business opportunities coming from the MARC Station.
Rick G says
The residential land capacity study needs to be further analyzed especially since this plan allows for practically no expansion of the development envelope at all. Where are these so-called 11,683 lots located? Why were they not developed already during the past 30 years when the county’s population almost doubled and developers were scrambling to find land? Are the properties for sale? Are the costs to develop them prohibitive? Are they located in areas where people want to live? Zero Growth does not equal Smart Growth! And it certainly doesn’t help create much needed jobs in a struggling economy.
The envelope is a double-edged sword.
If you expand it, you have NIMBY backlash, agricultural and preservation nuts barking, even more road improvements, destory quiet areas, and even more roads to expand and improve, not to mention the dreaded word, “sprawl.”
If you don’t expand it, you get increasing density, and with it crime and traffic, less green space, lower quality of life for most, and overall a less desireable place to live.
But, if you are an elected official, most of your vocal and active voters are probably from more well off and less dense areas, so you are going to abide their wishes, for the most part.
But, if you don’t expand the envelope, and fewer and fewer people want to live and/or work within it, then expansion slows, and you hurt the local economy, and revenues will go down, so you’ll have to raise rates/fees or cut services.
So there is no happy solution.
In principle, I’m actually pleased and surprised that there is no intention to expand the envelope (and I live in it, for what it’s worth).
However, I fully suspect there is no real plan to manage growth WITHIN the envelope. It will continue to be a mis-mash of projects and we will always play this game of building infrastructure 10 years after it’s needed.
Rick G says
I agree that it is a double edged sword. There are however opportunities for tweaking the envelope in areas where there are already adequate facilities in place or could be planned for in the next 8 years which is when the next update of the Master Plan will take place. Seems that the responsible thing to do is to include some areas along the edges of the existing envelope in this plan and actually have a responsible plan for growth instead of allowing the County to stagnate and overburden the citizens with higher taxes and fewer services.
I think the most responsible thing for a county like ours is to gradually and smartly expand the envelope, while keeping density within and outside of it very light.
But the contradictory aims of the rural areas and demands for growth (and revenues) make this politically unlikely.