A plan to add five homes to James Street, north of Bel Air's Vale Meadows, left many area residents perplexed at a development advisory committee meeting Wednesday.
James Street is a long cul-de-sac off of Rock Spring Road, tucked under the on-ramp to Route 924 from Bel Air Bypass.
It is also one of the few sections in the area that has not been developed, as most of the land there is "inundated" with forest retention, wetlands and natural resource districts, Mitch Ensor, of Bay State Land Services, said at the meeting.
"The only high and dry piece of the land left is on the terminus of James Street," he said.
The owner, identified as Hopkins Property LLC, wants to extend James Street south to build five single-family homes at its bottom tip, on 11.53 acres.
The project would be called Harford Dale South. The area is zoned R2.
All the lots and a stormwater management pond would be tucked into the northwest corner of the large natural resource and forest retention area.
Ensor said the north portion is the remaining lands of the Vale Meadows subdivision, whose approvals expired earlier.
He noted the proposed density is 3.5 lots per acre, which would have allowed a total of 40 lots on the parcel.
The developer is proposing public water and sewer to be provided by Maryland American Water. The project would hook into an existing 8-inch sanitary line that runs through James Street.
Don McLean, speaking for the fire department, said he had not seen this layout before and was not prepared to respond.
"This configuration is new to me," he said. "I see no way fire and ambulance service can properly serve these people."
Ensor offered to explain the plan to him and said the proposed extension of James Street would allow emergency vehicles to get through.
A handful of residents objected to the proposal, saying the road is too narrow as it is and they do not want to see another failed project in their area, as a different project planned for the opposite end of James Street has long sat idle.
Some said a school bus cannot even drive on James Street and it is hard for two vehicles to pass each other.
No plan is in the works to widen James at Rock Spring Road, and DAC chief Moe Davenport said the developer is only required to improve the section that will see construction.
Ensor said the connection being planned would be 17 feet wide.
Others noted that a handful of lots at the other end of James Street were never built and are now "nothing but a wheat and mud mess."
Davenport said that area is the product of a project about 60 years old.
"It was a subdivision done in the 1950s; it was redeveloped…and there are less lots than were originally planned - the same lots you now reside on," he told the residents.
He said building in the area makes perfect sense.
"It's in the heart of the development envelope, it's just outside the Town of Bel Air, it's served by water and sewer," he said. "We expected at some point in time it would be redeveloped."
Regis Burke, of James Street, said he is not against development, but is concerned about property values.
"We have six lots already vacant and kind of an eyesore," he said, adding this new project would be "roughly doubling the size of the community."
"We're talking about 20, 30 more cars passing children every day on a very narrow road," he said.
Ben Wible, also of James Street, said he just moved there in May and was told at the time the county did not have any new developments planned.
"One of the most desirable aspects of this community is it's private and secluded. If there were development, I could see maybe a cul-de-sac with maybe three houses to allow school bus to access the community, trash trucks come in," he said. "I just really don't see the value of the development at this time."
Patricia Martin, of Steed Lane in Vale Meadows, said her property backs up to the area that would be developed.
"I wouldn't want to see them come in with bulldozers and just clear-cut the place," she said. "We were under the impression that there are wetlands back there and they would need to be protected. Whenever they develop Vale Meadows, there's no way they're ever getting an ambulance or fire truck down there."
Other projects reviewed at the DAC meeting, with no public comments, were:
- A plan to convert a residence at 3714 Woodsdale Road in Abingdon to a personal care boarding home.
- A plan to build a 12,480-square-foot Dollar General store at Joppa Station, at Route 40 and Joppa Road.
- A plan to build an 8,553-square-foot Firestone auto care building at Hickory Crossing on Route 23. The building would have 10 service bay doors and 35 parking spaces.
- A plan to build a 7,200-square-foot auto repair shop on 5.14 acres on Dooley Road, west of Pylesville Road.