From Friends of Harford:
Bill 15-036 MO – District – must not pass.
It significantly changes the intent, quality and purpose of the MO designation defined in the Zoning Code and 2012 Master Plan, defeating MO’s primary purpose.
Bill 15-036 defies:
– the purpose for which MO-Mixed Office was created, and
– the reason MO was sited on Route 543 (2 adjacent areas) and Route 22 (1 area near HEAT).
Harford’s Zoning Code defines MO as:
This district is intended to promote major economic development opportunities, including corporate offices, research and development facilities and high-tech services which create significant job opportunities and investment benefits. It promotes high quality uses with high quality amenities. This area may also include retail uses to service the employment center. Designated at strategic I-95 interchanges, development will be subject to specific performance, architectural and site design standards.
To the currently allowed uses in MO, Bill 15-036 will add:
Commercial amusement and recreation; nightclubs, lounges, bars and taverns; Theaters, indoor; Theaters; outdoor; schools, colleges, and universities; Garden apartment dwellings (3 stories) ; Mid-rise apartment dwellings (4 – 5 stories); Townhouse dwellings; Hotels and motels; Nursing homes and Assisted living facilities; Agricultural retail; Shoppers merchandise stores (a.k.a. “big box”); Business services, including commercial schools.
In violating the stated purpose of MO, Bill 15-036:
Provides little employment: The MO “areas” were created to be a source of ongoing, high-value, high-tech employment. This Bill switches to uses like townhouses, which do not create ongoing jobs. Thus there will be no “promotion of major economic development”.
Disregards the Development Envelope: The Zoning Code permits only single family homes outside the Development Envelope; MO areas are outside the Envelope. This bill reverses the express prohibition on apartments in MO, allowing 55% of the entire project to be condos and townhouses. This flies in the face of the Development Envelope’s purpose, too, by extending new public water and sewer outside the Envelope to serve new, high-intensity housing and commercial development. This sets a dangerous precedent.
Flouts the ongoing HarfordNEXT Master Plan process: The draft of HarfordNEXT is expected this winter, and the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on it. Because Bill 15-036 seeks to cause far-reaching changes to land use, it should be part of the ongoing Master Plan update, not a separate Bill. These major changes deserve to be carefully reviewed at length by the entire County, and in proper context as part of the County’s overall Master Plan process. A change of this gravity deserves to be discussed and decided upon in a greater venue than afforded by the 60-day legislation procedure for this Bill.
Bill 15-036 should be either be voted down or allowed to die. As written, it violates Harford’s current Master Plan and Zoning Code. If the changes this Bill proposes make sense, let them be properly reviewed as part of the ongoing HarfordNEXT Master Plan process.
Further, if MO is to be completely redefined, then the currently approved James Run MO site needs to be grandfathered to the prior definition, and the two remaining MO candidates need to be canceled and reevaluated for suitability by the ongoing Master Planning process.
Action. If you agree with this conclusion, tell the County Council to vote down Bill 15-036. Here’s how:
Testify at the public hearing Tuesday, December 1, 6:30pm in the Council chambers (3 minute limit)
Note: The existing, DAC-approved site plan for James Run MO will be unaffected and can be built.