From Friends of Harford:
Friends of Harford believes that, unlike the visionary parts of HarfordNEXT, the Development Envelope expansions shown on the Land Use Map will be implemented immediately, adding land in Creswell, Fallston and Forest Hill to the Development Envelope ready to be rezoned for immediate development. Furthermore, HarfordNEXT proposes a Growth Study that we believe will lead to a large eastward expansion of the Development Envelope boundary in the general area of Churchville, Creswell and points further east. Friends of Harford opposes expanding the Development Envelope yet again, after over 1,000 acres were added less than four years ago. Below is our rationale.
(paper and maps follow below and as attachments)……..
PROPOSED GROWTH STUDY IS NOT NEEDED
A Growth Study is called for in “the area east of the Development Envelope between U.S. 1 and I-95”, with no limit on the study’s eastern boundary. This leads us to believe the County is committed to expanding the Development Envelope regardless of need. Friends of Harford agrees with Maryland Department of Planning that no expansion of the Development Envelope is needed.
In their letter dated March 22, 2016, Maryland Department of Planning, Review Comments, Draft HarfordNEXT, states:
“ Harford County is projected to grow by approximately 18,525 households between 2015 and 2040. Given that the current land capacity inside the development district could accommodate all of this growth, is it necessary at this time to explore new growth areas in addition to the existing Development Envelope? Perhaps the last sentence could incorporate ‘to determine the need for any future growth area’.”
Furthermore, HarfordNEXT ignores the development capacity of the 1,000+ acres between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace added to the Development Envelope by the 2012 Master Plan. We strongly believe the county and these two municipalities should plan together for this area, recognizing that we will jointly share and pay for roads, schools, parks, libraries and other infrastructure here.
PROPOSED EXPANSIONS OF DEVELOPMENT ENVELOPE ARE NOT JUSTIFIED
HarfordNEXT plans to expand the Development Envelope on three properties in Creswell, Fallston and Forest Hill. Friends of Harford asked why, and the Administration responded by saying: “The minor adjustments were proposed based on the need to alleviate environmental or human health concerns or allow for more efficient infill on parcels otherwise constrained by development on adjacent properties.”
Friends of Harford believes these reasons are inaccurate and do not justify the expansions.
· The properties do not meet the common definition of infill and are not constrained by adjacent properties.
· If failing septic systems are the “human health concern”, public water or sewer can be provided to existing homes without expanding the Development Envelope. This has been done before for health reasons. Friends of Harford fully supports providing public water and/or sewer to homes and businesses which have long been in existence.
CRESWELL EXPANSION (see Creswell HarfordNEXT area map)
This is a single property, surrounded on 3 sides by Agricultural zoned land. It is not infill, and resembles “spot zoning”. There is no justification for expanding the Development Envelope for this one property, especially prior to completion of the Growth Study to see if expansion is warranted.
Maryland Department of Planning’s March 22 letter also commented:
“It appears that a portion of the Churchville/Creswell planning area is … identified in Chapter 2 as an area for a potential growth area. Is the County thinking that this area may be added to the Development Envelope? In the Community Planning Areas Chapter, limiting the amount of new development to support existing agricultural areas … seems to be a goal. Increasing the DE with new growth areas would impact the County’s ability to achieve these community planning goals.”
Furthermore, if the only “reason” is that without public sewer, septic systems will be built, then this approach will lead developers to expect automatic approvals for any new residential subdivisions outside the Development Envelope, with developers randomly expanding the Development Envelope boundaries to suit their needs, not the County’s plan.
Maryland Department of Planning also commented:
“ … (HarfordNEXT should) state where and when such expansions of Development Envelope and the Water and Sewer boundaries would be consistent with the County growth goals. This could be carried out by stating public sewer and water expansion is restricted to designated growth areas, or to health concern areas that are later identified and amended into the County Water and Sewer Plan. ”
FALLSTON EXPANSION (see Fallston HarfordNEXT area map)
Maryland Department of Planning commented:
“Is the proposed expansion of the Development Envelope in Fallston connected to residents’ petitions to expand the Sanitary Sewer Service Area as described on pg. 27? If so, perhaps it makes sense to wait for the detailed comprehensive study of the FSS Service Area before making a recommendation.”
Friends of Harford notes that the Development Envelope was previously expanded in 2012 to “help existing homes” in this area, but instead new development was immediately approved which apparently used up the remaining sewer capacity in the Fallston Sanitary Sewer District. To date, we believe, none of the homes that were to be helped have received sewer service.
We believe water and sewer can (and should) be expanded to older, existing homes without expanding the Development Envelope. As noted by Maryland Department of Planning, health concerns are a valid reason to provide public water or sewer without changing Development Envelope boundaries. Health reasons have been used before in Harford as justification to provide such services outside the Development Envelope.
Consequently, we find no reason to add a huge piece of Agricultural-zoned land to the Development Envelope. This property adjoins an active farm in agricultural preservation, some older homes (some of which may want sewer), and on one end adjoins the same owner’s other high-intensity property which was brought into the Development Envelope in 2012. It quickly received B3 zoning and is being intensely developed in this otherwise rural area.
Adding the AG-zoned property into the Development Envelope is strongly opposed by the Fallston Community Advisory Board, Greater Fallston Association, and many local residents including “Keep Fallston Rural”.
Harford’s zoning code states that if an Agricultural property is brought into the Development Envelope and the owner requests and is granted (during comprehensive rezoning which follows on the heels of HarfordNEXT) B1 (low intensity business) zoning, it could legally become an SD “Mixed Use Center” if the developer wants. This would throw the property open to massive, high-intensity development.
FOREST HILL EXPANSION (see Forest Hill HarfordNEXT area map)
This is the less objectionable expansion, as it’s surrounded on three sides by other Rural Residential zoned lots. Rural Residential properties have septic systems rather than public sewer. But if avoiding septic is the reason for expanding the Development Envelope here, why stop with one property, and why does the Development Envelope leapfrog over the Rural Residential property to the south?
It is Friends of Harford’s opinion that the three proposed expansions of the DE are simply gifts to selected individuals or entities, not based on coherent or rational policy. We also believe a Growth Study is unnecessary because sufficient development capacity already exists, and that to decide to develop a specific rural area without justification is unacceptable in a master plan. (See 2012 Land Use Studies by Harford’s Department of Planning & Zoning.)