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The Baltimore Sun

Cedarday residents express concerns during county meeting

At least 100 people came out for a community meeting Tuesday held by Harford County public works and planning and zoning officials to address the controversial plan to extend Cedarday Drive to Route 136 in the Creswell area.

Many of those who attended, however, said they were leaving with their concerns unaddressed and questions unanswered.

The meeting Tuesday was held at Patterson Mill High School. Earlier this month, dozens of Cedarday community residents came out to a Harford County Council meeting to make their concerns heard, but council members gave no indication they would step in and try to prevent the project from going forward.

The meeting at Patterson Mill was set up as an informational session, followed by breakout sessions where residents could ask officials questions one-on-one.

Dozens of frustrated residents gathered around the county's chief highway engineer, Jeff Stratmeyer, who guided them out to the hallway and tried to answer all their questions.

Michelle Craft, a resident Green Cedar Drive, was one of the many who were not satisfied by what they heard.

"It's ridiculous…I think it's going to get uglier," she said of the meeting, pointing out that County Executive David Craig should be there instead of Stratmeyer.

"He is the wrong person to be here. He's just as defensive and angry as anybody," she said of the DPW engineer. "It would be nice if someone told us who we should go to."

Craft said the expanded road will destroy the neighborhood.

"We spent almost $1 million on our house and nobody told us there was going to be a road there," Craft said. "This is our livelihood. I think if we all put 'For Sale' on our houses, [developer] Toll Brothers would stop it [the road]."

Craft said she does not want to see Cedarday Drive extended under any circumstances, including to improve traffic conditions around their neighborhood and nearby Cedar Lane Regional Park.

"We moved from a neighborhood where people got hit," she said about the traffic problems. "Your crime rate goes up."

Stratmeyer tried to make himself heard in the pressing crowd, often raising his voice at people.

"I am not going to put in something that is going to potentially hold the county liable," he said about the safety concerns, explaining existing traffic safety regulations.

Back in the cafeteria, several residents said they thought the county officials were doing the best they could, although they were still unhappy with the project.

"It's a very necessary forum," Greg Wright, of Erin Way, said, explaining he thinks people expected to make their concerns heard publicly. "Now there's people fussing in the hallway and now we can't hear their points."

Wright said he would prefer to see no road extension and better speeding control measures.

"If I ran the world, there would be no extension," he said, but noted he did not think the officials at the meeting could change anything.

"The people who have the power to stop the process are not here," he continued. "I don't know there is a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to educate the public [on speeding]. But you can't legislate human behavior."

Karen Gaylord, of Cedarday Drive, also said she is not happy with the project but thinks officials are doing their best.

"I think the county officials have been very responsive," she said. "Apparently they have made up their minds with what is going to happen. Personally I would prefer the road not to go through. That being said, I think it's a done deal. I think they are being responsive in asking residents for ideas."

At the start of the meeting, Stratmeyer presented a sign-up sheet for a subcommittee on Cedarday traffic calming, which he said hopes will generate ideas for a safer Cedarday Drive. Timothy Waller stood up at the start of the meeting to also ask his fellow residents to stop racing through the development.

"The speeding is out of control on Cedarday," he said.

He said an hour and a half recently, 29 citations were issued on Cedarday Drive, including to one teenager who was driving 52 miles per hour. The speed limit is 25.

The breakout sessions were also preceded by a short presentation.

Hudson Myers, deputy director of public works, explained the projects that are planned around Wheel Road, a major route for people who live on the east side of Abingdon and beyond to get to Route 24.

"We have four different projects, "Myers said.

In 2004, there was an agreement the developer was supposed to build the whole extension of Cedarday Drive but his property was downzoned but the county, Myers said.

"We knew we had the project ready to go for Cedarday…prior to closing Wheel Road," Myers said.

Stratmeyer said he has gotten about 30 e-mails and 15 or 20 phone calls recently about Cedarday Drive.

"They were very good questions," he said, explaining he sent the June 10 letter to the community based on those questions.

Stratmeyer spent the meeting going over many of the answers he gave in that letter already.

Addressing some common questions, he said again that the detour route for the Wheel Road project will not be Cedarday Drive, but MacPhail Road.

Although he said some people may still go through the Cedarday area, Stratmeyer added: "I do not see a whole lot of people using Cedarday Drive as a detour route," he said.

He also the county has "no intention of increasing the speed limit on Cedarday Drive…this is probably the biggest concern everyone has, is the speeding on Cedarday Drive."

But Stratmeyer also admitted the county has no way of knowing exactly how may people would use Cedarday Drive if the road is extended.

Besides Stratmeyer and Myers, the meeting was attended by a number of top county administration representatives, including Public Works Director Bob Cooper, Planning and Zoning Director Pete Gutwald and Aaron Tomarchio, the county executive's chief of staff and head of community relations.

Their boss, Craig, did not attend.

Sheriff Jesse Bane was also in the audience and said he was available to take questions.

Cooper said a meeting is scheduled with the Cedar Lane Park representatives during the first weekend in July, and the Cedarday board president said he plans to attend that session.

For updates on the Cedarday Drive controversy, check back with http://www.exploreharford.com or see Friday's print edition of The Aegis.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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