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Ex-Aberdeen resident chides city for not supporting those whose homes were razed for highway project

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

4:07 PM EDT, October 30, 2013

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The residents along Aberdeen's Route 22 whose houses were razed to make room highway improvements may be gone, but they may not soon be forgotten.

One such longtime resident came before the Aberdeen City Council Monday to "bring some closure concerning this life-changing event," as she put it.

Mary Lynn Myers, who lived at 606 Aberdeen Thruway with her family for 38 years until earlier this year, told council members she is disappointed the city did not reach out to support or acknowledge the families who would be losing their homes.

Myers said she was deeply involved in city life, getting three beautification awards from the town, staying active in Girl Scouts, parks and recreation events and the Humane Society, and sending her children to public schools.

"Our daughter sang a solo 'America the Beautiful' at the grand opening of this very city hall building," Myers said, adding she also worked at the library and Goodwill store in Aberdeen.

"Our family was one of the 18 families that were displaced because of eminent domain," she said, noting she was forced to move out of the county so SHA could tear down her house and ultimately widen Route 22 in spots to make BRAC-related intersection improvements along the highway that leads to the main employee gate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"Our husband and I created our home here in Aberdeen and we took great pride in our property," she said. "Sadly, our daughters will not be able to drive by and see the house where they were born and raised because it won't be there anymore, because of eminent domain."

"I wouldn't wish this situation on anyone," she said, adding she and her husband worked hard to find a new home. "Unfortunately, our family really didn't receive any support from the city of Aberdeen as we were going through this process."

Myers said she learned "the state can indeed displace citizens from their homes" and that she got through it with perseverance and faith, ultimately settling in a good neighborhood.

She said she lives outside of Harford County but did not say where.

"We are concerned deeply about the citizens who live near 22," Myers said, adding that she hopes after the widening, the state really listens to residents' concerns and protects them from the "high traffic," noise and pollution.

"I really hope and pray that all the plans of the state of widening that road really helps that situation, but I honestly cannot see it after living at that intersection for 38 years and physically going out and helping people during all of those accidents," she said. "One of our dogs got killed in the traffic of 22."

Myers also urged more sidewalks to be built from the shopping centers by Beards Hill Road to serve low-income residents.

Mayor Mike Bennett and three of the council members who attended the meeting said they were sorry for Myers and other families. Councilwoman Ruth Elliott was not in attendance because of illness.

"We are very sorry to lose you as a citizen in Aberdeen," Bennett said, clarifying that the city had almost no say in what SHA was doing.

"We had a lot of concern and we voiced a lot of concern with State Highway what was going on," he said. "They had the plans that they were going to have and that was pretty much the bottom line... I'm sorry for the inconvenience that you had to go through."

Myers said she knows it was not the city's jurisdiction.

"At the same time, our family were citizens of the town of Aberdeen, and from my recollection, I don't remember feeling the support and the compassion as a citizen of Aberdeen, but if you say that you spoke on behalf of us, I appreciate that," she said. "As a human being and a citizen, I didn't feel that."

Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck said her first house in Aberdeen was on Roberts Way right off Route 22 and one of her close friends was among those affected by the demolitions.

"I remember the day they took that down and it was very painful," she said, adding that the fire station on Route 22 is being affected as well.

"The city is feeling some pain, too," she said. "Fire House 3 is losing a good chunk of their land and it's going to impact them."

"We're not oblivious to the hurt and I appreciate your coming and I hope that did give you some closure," she said.

Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young agreed and said she believes there are plans for noise barriers on the road as well.

"I, too, share in that concern and I identify with the discomfort that you feel, and that you'll always have the memories that you generated there," she said. "It's a big transition for a lot of folks and we certainly wish your family and the other families happiness and success in your new locations."

Councilman Bruce Garner said he lives farther down by Mount Royal Avenue and Route 22 and hopes the speed limit is decreased from I-95 to the Aberdeen Proving Ground gate because it is dangerous for pedestrians already.

"I watch them in the morning, and some mornings I hold my breath watching them cross," Garner said. "Sorry to lose you as a resident and I wish you well as you enter your new location."