Speaking as the president of Friends of Harford, Morita Bruce made the following recommendations to the Harford County Council regarding the draft 2012 Master Plan at a public hearing held February 7, 2012. The text below was provided for publication.
Bill 12-01, Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan. Friends of Harford believes:
1. The Master Plan (MP) should not be approved until the County Executive provides detailed maps that clearly show where all boundary lines are with respect to property lines and roads, and these new maps have been reviewed by this Council and incorporated into this legislation.
Both the public and this Council are being asked to evaluate critical Land Use and Community Area maps with inadequate detail. These maps are unclear, imprecise, easily misunderstood and subject to differing interpretations by everyone involved. Land Use maps should be delineated like the Water & Sewer maps which already exist.
Also, the Existing Use maps have significant errors that must be corrected or the maps removed from the MP.
2. The MP should be amended to require legislation with specific, enforceable limits on lighting, dust, fumes and visual pollution.
We believe all owners have the right to the peaceful use and enjoyment of their own property. This right is violated when nearby properties shine bright lights in our eyes, when man-made dust or fumes assault our lungs, when we are forced to view “visual pollution” (like an unscreened trash dump). Communities fight otherwise acceptable new neighbors because they rightly fear they are not protected from these undesirable intrusions.
3. The MP should be amended to require legislation disallowing sewage pumping stations and stormwater ponds in Natural Resource Districts (NRDs).
We support the MP’s call to protect areas around our streams, wetlands and rivers which comprise our watersheds. The most cost-effective way to do this is to keep unnatural construction a safe distance away from them. This safe distance is the NRD. The most destructive activities still allowed within NRDs are stormwater ponds and sewage pumping stations, both of which can fail disastrously. By keeping these out of NRDs, we protect the watershed and enable the NRD to become the “back up system” which reduces damage when a sewage or other overflow occurs.
4. The MP should be amended to keep all current Development Envelope (DE) boundaries.
Expansion of the DE is unnecessary: Independent land use studies done for the County confirm that Harford’s DE has 60 years worth of undeveloped land zoned for Business, 60 years worth of Industrial land and 28 years worth of residential land.
Expansion of the DE is counterproductive: The cost of new infrastructure (roads, schools, libraries, etc.) falls on the taxpayer not the developer. Expanding the DE discourages developing where infrastructure already exists. Spending tax money on infrastructure for new areas increases the burden on taxpayers. In addition, expansion hurts property values in older areas by making revitalization of these areas financially less appealing.
The MP calls for a small DE expansion in the Fallston area specifically to solve septic problems for a neighborhood built before the DE existed. This is a unique case to address a problem that was not foreseen back in the 1950’s when these homes were built. If these homeowners are surveyed and most agree that they want and can afford sewer hookups, then FOH will support this minor expansion of the DE. Until then we do not support expansion because it could become the “camel’s nose in the tent” to develop this area.