During an oddly serene session Tuesday night, during which neither NIMBY nor developer stormed out of the chambers, the Harford County Council unanimously approved 67 Comprehensive Rezoning amendments – setting up what is expected to be a smooth approval next week of the new official Harford County Zoning Map.
Compared to the confrontational rezoning process of two years ago, which culminated with a veto by then-newly appointed County Executive David Craig and mandated restart of the process, Tuesday’s meeting was subdued and only attended by a few dozen people – mostly developers, activists, and members of the county Planning and Zoning Department.
Here is a summary of amendments and comments by district:
District A – Joppatowne/Edgewood:
“You can’t make everybody happy. You try to do the best you can and what’s best for the county,” – Councilman Dion Guthrie
Guthrie’s 14 amendments consist mainly of upzoning residential land to commercial and business property, which would be more in concert with the notion of redeveloping and rebranding Route 40 as the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor.
Guthrie also focused on ridding community blight – eyesores he worked with the Edgewood Community Council and other groups to locate and rezone with the hope they can be redeveloped. This includes the former Oak Avenue landfill site, which had residential property around it that Guthrie pushed to have rezoned as commercial-industrial.
District B – Abingdon/Fallston
“We could have had a lot more houses in District B,” – Councilman Joe Woods
Woods’ 7 amendments seek to wrangle in new residential construction in Fallston (in one of the rare mentions of opposition, Woods produced a 200-person petition against a residential upzoning) and keep business and commercial development from creeping north on Harford Road.
Among his amendments, Woods disagreed with the Planning and Zoning department’s recommendation for high-intensity business zoning near the Stoneybrook community and instead introduced an amendment to keep the property agriculturally-zoned. Through a variety of covenants and easements agreed upon and signed by developers, Woods was also able to curtail residential development, while not completely slamming the door on the county’s new Transfer of Development Rights process – which requires Rural Residential upzoned land to be affective.
District C – Bel Air
“No amendment will be made to change the current zoning,” – Councilman Jim McMahan, regarding the controversial Blake Property upzoning
McMahan’s 9 amendments included holding the line on the heavily-debated Blake Property, which sought to upzone about 90 acres from R1 to R2 zoning. The Blake Property was considered a keystone issue in the entire Comprehensive Rezoning and affects everything from new school construction to nearby infrastructure projects. Several other council members indicated they would have opposed any effort to upzone that property. Even with the upzoning defeated, McMahan warned area residents that the Blake Property can still be developed with townhouses – which are provided for under its current zoning designation.
District D – Northern Harford
Councilman Chad Shrodes’ 13 amendments seek to align agricultural and business uses in the northern end of the county, but his proudest effort might have been in facilitating a compromise over the proposed H.P. White Laboratories upzoning in Street.
H.P. White Laboratories, a small arms and ammunition research, development, and testing facility, was requesting to upzone a portion of its agriculturally-zoned property to general industrial use – purportedly to expand its current operations. The inherent danger cited by those opposed to the H.P. White Laboratories request was that, if the company ever sold the property, its new owner could cease the small arms testing and use the GI zoning to allow a bevy of uses seemingly incompatible with the rural site, which sits along Deer Creek.
Shrodes announced that, just before the evening council session convened, the owners of H.P. White Laboratories entered into a declaration of covenants and easement restrictions with the Harford Land Trust, which restricts future development of the property and limits its uses forever, even in the event of a change in ownership.
Also of note in District D were no amendments to approve the upzoning request of the Wetlands Golf Course properties outside Aberdeen from agricultural to a high-density residential use.
District E – Aberdeen/Churchville
Councilman Dick Slutzky’s 11 amendments mostly impacted the Route 22 corridor from Churchville to Aberdeen, including upzoning a parcel of land adjacent to property slated to hold the future Campus Hills Elementary School. The 9-acre site, on Route 22 across from Harford Community College, is encumbered with water resource issues that restrict use of about 20% of the site. So Slutzky recommended upzoning 6 acres of the site from AG to B2.
[NOTE: Councilman Slutzky clarified: “The parcel of land up-zoned near Rt 22 and Schucks Rd did NOT include any land slated for the future Campus Hills School. The parcel involved is adjacent to the future school site but is NOT part of it.]
After consulting with the City of Aberdeen, Slutzky proceeded with the city’s desire to have two parcels on Bush Chapel Road, across I-95 from Battelle, be zoned B3 rather than R2 – recognizing the business use would be of greater benefit to the city than more residences in that area.
Slutzky also had an amendment to upzone land between the halfway house and the Royal Farms at Route 22 and Route 543 to a business zoning.
[Note: Councilman Slutzky clarified: “The parcel up-zoned near the Royal Farm Store at Rt 22 and Rt 543 did NOT include the “Halfway” house. The site sits between the Roylal Farm Store and the “Halfway” house but does not include any of that property.”]
District F – Havre de Grace/Perryman/Riverside
Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti’s 13 amendments stretch from the gates of Aberdeen Proving Ground and out to Perryman and Riverside.
Lisanti, who had the unique perspective of having been with the county Department of Planning and Zoning in 1997 during the last Comprehensive Rezoning, said she was looking to strike balances between the desire to grow and the available infrastructure in the varying communities of her district.
Among Lisanti’s amendments was a B4 upzoning just outside APG. “Change is coming,” she said, pointing out it is better to play a hand in shaping the oncoming forces of BRAC rather than resisting and having no voice at all.
In other business from Tuesday night’s county council session:
– Guthrie was pleased to announce his black Labrador retriever once again placed in the dock jumping competition at the Farm Fair.
– Citing the ever-approaching BRAC, Guthrie cautioned that the region’s Congressional representatives, U.S. Senators, and even President Barack Obama should be consulted about restarting the Route 715 project to provide a direct exit for traffic to get from I-95 onto Aberdeen Proving Ground.
– McMahan warned that “H1N1 is here” and mentioned there has been a proliferation of summer camps closing due to outbreaks of the flu formerly known as “swine.” McMahan said he didn’t want to sound like an alarmist, but wanted to give parents a heads-up that schools will undoubtedly be closing for some periods of time this year due to flu outbreaks, so preparations for daycare or baby-sitting should be put in place now.
– Shrodes lamented that, in these trying economic times, the only livestock he could afford to purchase at the Farm Fair was the grand champion chicken.