From Gloria Moon:
I don’t know who owns the Mixed Office (MO) zoned properties on 543 at I-95, but I know two things about them. First, they are very capable puppet masters when it comes to getting County government to do their bidding. And second and more importantly, they have no marketing or long-range visionary skills.
The MO concept started in 1996 with the small and finite Planned Employment Centers. Since then it has been massaged, enlarged and changed at the behest of the MO-owners. Each proffered concept for this area has met with financial disaster due to the horrible timing of the project. Each idea came too late in the game.
First the PEC had no employers wanting to move there. Then came the corporate campus concept with attendant gorgeous drawings but it too had no takers. Finally the County was forced to actually define what the MO would be – a center for quality office jobs because they all had the inside dope that BRAC was coming to Harford County. The BRAC fever struck and its wimpy outcome left the MO bereft of any buyer in need of “prime office space”.
Back to the drawing board and the MO-owners decided that nothing would do but that Lodging Houses be built for “defense contractors and their support” with a shopping venue for the hotel-apartment residents. The County dutifully changed the Zoning Code to the MO-owners’ specifications. Alas, there was no need for these “transient dwelling accommodations”. Someone, most likely their beleaguered financial advisors, told them there was enough already built for BRAC weekday quarters for the New Jerseyites working at APG.
So now one must assume this land is eating up its owners in mortgage payments, taxes and interest payments without a single brick or inch of paving to show for it after over 15 years of maneuvering. The MO-owners started a major bullying tactic to get the County to get them upfront money to start building something – at least the public water and sewer system. They dug around and found the Tax Increment Financing (TIF). So the County sponsored a $23,000,000 million bond to help them on their way. Unbelievably, that too failed and the TIF fell by the wayside.
Today as an early Christmas present, the MO-owners want the County to change the Zoning Code again so they can have apartments (not lodging houses) and shopping – which could include big box stores on their parcel of land. (One must remember that through all of this jockeying, the County still insists that this is not inside the Development Envelope).
The MO-owners are behind the 8-ball once again. To date, there are approvals in the pipeline for over 2,500 new apartments in Harford County and around 2,000 new townhouses. What folly to plan for more. Will the County knuckle under to their demands again? We’ll have to wait and see how the County Council votes on Bill 15-036.