Two large industrial/warehouse type buildings, each with more than 1 million square feet of space, are being proposed by a national developer for a narrow tract adjacent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, just south of the Aberdeen city limits.
A group Perryman residents, fed up with the noise and traffic they claim are generated by the warehouses and industrial activities surrounding their community, made it clear Thursday night, however, they will not accept any more such growth that could harm their community.
Nearly 40 of them crowded into a small room at the Aberdeen library, some standing in the doorway, for a community input meeting on the proposed Eastgate at Perryman project.
"When is it going to stop?" Lelsie Ruhno, who lives on East Michaelsville Road near the southern portion of the site, said of industrial development in Perryman.
The 243-acre site, one part of the extensive Mitchell family lands, is surrounded by homes along East Michaelsville Road to the south, Route 715 (Maryland Boulevard) to the north, Aberdeen Proving Ground to the east and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor mainline to the west. The distance from north to south is about 2.3 miles, while from east to west is less than a quarter mile.
The property is zoned for light industrial use. Several large warehouses and industrial buildings are on the opposite side of the railroad tracks from the Mitchell property, The Clorox Company's consumer laundry bleach processing facility among them. A massive Rite Aid distribution center is off of Chelsea Road just south of the small residential community along Michaelsville. Baltimore Gas & Electric has a small generating station farther south on Chelsea Road that is ticketed for a major expansion.
The Eastgate plans list Panattoni Development Company as "owner." Panattoni, whose headquarters is in Newport Beach, Cal., specializes in industrial, warehouse and office developments on a large scale, according to its website. The company has offices around the U.S., Canada and in Europe. The main office directed a reporter to a partner in the Atlanta office, who did not return a phone message left Friday afternoon.
On the site plan drawn up by the Bel Air engineering firm Frederick Ward Associates, the larger of the two buildings would be on the north side of the property, 2,496 feet by 500 feet, a total of 1,248,00 square feet, while the second on the south side of the property would be 1,476 feet by 520 feet, a total of 1,027,000 square feet.
The rest of the property would be used for parking, truck pads and an interior road, with the remainder left in open space.
Access to the site would be by extending Woodley Road across Michaelsville Road to the interior road that would serve both buildings. Truck and other traffic would get to the buildings via Perryman Road (Route 159) to Chelsea Road to Woodley, which runs through the small Michaelsville community that has historic homes, some of those attending the meeting noted.
The development's interior road would run along side the APG fence and would stop at the parking and truck access pads for the second building. The plan, however, also notes the prospect of the road being extended out to Route 715, which is the main civilian access to the proving ground.
The access plan set off a nearly 90-minute round of questions and accusations directed at Nicholas Linehan, a project manager with Frederick Ward Associates.
Linehan's acknowledgment that the operator of the warehouses, MRP Industrial, does not have tenants secured yet, fueled the anger of those in the room. Some asked why MRP would not simply use existing empty warehouses in the area.
"That is unethical, to displace all of these families and ruin their homes and their livelihood, for a few pieces of silver, [warehouses] that you don't even know are going to be profitable," said Barbara McNamara, who lives along Perryman Road.
People who live along Michaelsville Road noted their homes are adjacent to the south end of the property and will be subjected to continuous truck traffic, likely at all hours of the day and night.
Gerard Zulauf, who said he spent 40 years with the Baltimore County Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff's Office, warned there would be "nothing but blood on the streets, eventually, if you guys don't listen to what's being said here about that 715 [alternate entrance]."
"I can see the handwriting on the wall . . . there's going to be a lot of blood spilled on the roads with all this traffic," he said.
Planned for industry
The Perryman peninsula, running from just south of Aberdeen to Bush River, was once the center of a thriving vegetable growing and canning industry. Although the Mitchell lands were farmed for generations, most were zoned for future industrial development more than two decades ago, with the expectations by county officials that Perryman would become a regional distribution and manufacturing center.
Years ago, county planners also had wanted whomever developed the easternmost Mitchell tract to construct a road from Route 715 south to Chelsea Road that could be used to relieve the truck traffic on Perryman Road. The Michaelsville community, grew up on both sides of the railroad, but when Amtrak built its high speed lines, it closed the Michaelsville Road grade crossings, and an overpass was built farther south on Chelsea Road to access the area east of the railroad, including the future Rite Aid and BGE sites.
County officials also have talked for years about getting developers on the peninsula to help pay for the construction of a causeway and/or bridge from the intersection of Route 543 and Route 40 in Belcamp across the northwestern corner of Bush River and Church Creek marsh to Perryman Road. Nothing, however, has ever come of that plan.
Community groups such as the Forest Greens & Perryman Community Association and the Bush River Community Council have expressed concerns about the Eastgate project, which is expected to be discussed at the March 17 meeting of the Bush River Community Council.
The southwest corner of the Eastgate site is adjacent to a wellhead owned by Harford County that was once the county's main public drinking water supply. Other sources have since supplemented the well field, but it is still used. The site plan shows both buildings would be constructed in wellhead protection areas. The City of Aberdeen has a wellhead across Route 715 from the north side of the property.
The proximity to public drinking water wells was among the concerns raised at the community input meeting.
"If 30 percent of the water for Harford County comes from the aquifers here, we think there is a broader concern, " resident Carol Yarnell said.
"We're going to do everything within our power to make sure that people listen to us," she added.
Jerald Wheeler, a former Harford County public works director, who owns property along Michaelsville Road, stood next to Linehan and pointed out a number of ways in which the layout could be improved to avoid harm to the community and nearby wellheads.
He said later that his decades-long career with the county included reviewing "hundreds" of plans that came before the county's Development Advisory Committee.
Ruhno stressed that residents are willing to work with the developer, but she also said the project has to be in harmony with the surrounding community,
"We know that this property is going to eventually be developed," she said. "We get it. We can't stop development. It's in the county master plan."