From Morita Bruce, President, Friends of Harford, Inc.
Think zoning is boring? About 800 angry people at last week’s Walmart Community Input Meeting (CIM) used to think so, too. They’ve been rudely awakened.
The property where Walmart will be built was zoned R4 residential. However, in 2009, the owner asked for B3 business zoning during Harford’s Comprehensive Zoning. Friends of Harford (FOH), an all-volunteer citizens’ group working for responsible land use, opposed the change saying “Additional commercially-zoned land is unneeded, and intense business uses would be incompatible with surrounding homes and small businesses. In contrast, there is a shortage of R4 (residential) properties in this vicinity, particularly ones of any significant size.”
To the best of my knowledge, no one else objected, nobody sent letters, and nobody objected during the public hearings. Seeing that no one besides FOH wanted it to stay residential, the County Executive and County Council approved the change. And that’s why Walmart will be built.
It’s too late now to yell at county officials. We hate saying that because we don’t believe high-traffic businesses belong there either. But with the B3 zoning it now has, I know of no way for officials to stop it. It’s perfectly legal for the property owner to do what he wants with his property, and he wants a Walmart.
That Walmart is coming. The only chance you have to make a difference now is go over the drawings and the traffic impact study with a fine tooth comb — when they are available through the Department of Planning & Zoning — to see if you can tell the county at the upcoming Development Advisory Committee meeting that there’s something in the design or the study that violates the zoning code, or you can try to convince Walmart to “be a good neighbor” and improve what they’re proposing.
GET INVOLVED. Check for new zoning requests or requests for additional uses for a zoning category on the County Council web site. They happen all the time and sometimes at a place near you. (http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/council/Zoning.cfm)
Good luck. And remember: when it comes to zoning, you snooze you lose. Stay awake and watch for proposed zoning changes.
Morita Bruce, President
Friends of Harford, Inc.
For useful lists of what can be done on properties with different types of zoning, please refer to www.FriendsOfHarford.com/zone-class.html