Harford reviews plans for Humane Society, Ashley intake center

Engineers working on the site plan for a new facility for the Harford County Humane Society it Fallston expect final county approval following a short hearing Wednesday before the county's Development Advisory Committee Wednesday.

"We expect them to approve the plan with some minor comments," said Steve Nolan of CNA Inc., a Forest Hill engineering firm, who is working with Humane Society officials, architects and county staffers on the effort to replace the more than 60-year-old Fallston-area farmhouse which serves as the organization's office and animal shelter.

The Humane Society is seeking county approval to build a more than 16,000-square-foot facility on its 23 acres off Connolly Road.

The plan includes a large parking lot in front of the new building and a deceleration lane along Connolly, leading to the parking lot entrance.

Committee Chairman Moe Davenport said members asked developers to use pervious material to build a handful of proposed parking spaces, rather than impervious material such as asphalt, to ensure the lot is within the statutory limit for impervious surfaces.

Davenport said the limit is determined by the square footage of the proposed building.

"We don't want more spaces to provide more impervious surface than necessary," he said following Wednesday's meeting.

Davenport said the parking space issue should be taken care of before county planning and zoning officials approve the site plan.

Nolan said the county must then approve individual project plans such as the traffic improvements for Connolly Road, the stormwater management plan, erosion and sediment control plan and more, before the project is put out for construction bids.

A community input meeting was held May 3 at the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company, where several local residents showed up and generally expressed support for the project.

Ashley intake center

Committee members also had few suggestions for improvements to the site plan for a proposed patient intake center on the nearly 150-acres owned by Father Martin's Ashley, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility south of Havre de Grace.

Project Manager John Conwell of Site Resources Inc., a Phoenix land planning firm, presented the plans Wednesday. He said after the meeting that the intake center would be used for initial treatment and screening of Ashley's patients.

Conwell told committee members the county's Board of Appeals had granted developers a special zoning exception in April to build on the property, which is in an area of Harford County that is part of the state's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area zone.

The Critical Area is managed by the State Critical Area Commission and county agencies throughout Maryland to ensure development in sensitive areas does not harm the Chesapeake Bay.

Critical Area Commission approval is needed to build the 28,000-square-foot intake center on the Ashley property.

The property, which is along the bay near Aberdeen Proving Ground, includes 100 acres that had been the defunct Swan Creek golf course.

Shane Grimm, who represents the Department of Planning and Zoning on the committee, told Conwell he, along with officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers, would be working with the developers on wetland-related matters.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, area residents offered suggestions on how the developers could improve the health of the bay around the intake center.

"Ashley is a wonderful organization," Alan Sweatman, who lives in Havre de Grace near the Ashley property, said. "I think they've been great neighbors to all of us."

Sweatman asked if it would "be to Ashley's advantage to have a higher percentage of pervious surface" in light of the stormwater management fee recently approved by the Harford County Council and charged to owners of non-residential properties based on the amount of impervious surface on a property.

Morita Bruce, a member of the Fallston Community Council and president of the Friends of Harford, a citizen group which advocates for "responsible land use," according to the group's website, suggested creating "man-made" wetlands on the property to remove harmful nutrients which could run off into the bay.

Bruce said a similar system introduced at North Harford High School was "very effective in removing nitrogen at a very reasonable cost."

Conwell said both suggestions are worth considering.

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