Eastgate warehouse project

The proposed Eastgate warehouse project is planned for a parcel off of Michaelsville Road in Perryman, seen here Sunday morning before the latest forecasted snowstorm began. (Staff photo by Ted Hendricks/The Aegis / March 3, 2014)

A Baltimore developer is proposing to build two massive industrial/warehouse buildings on a narrow tract of land in Perryman adjacent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, angering nearby residents frustrated by increasing traffic and noise.

MRP Industrial, a Baltimore-based unit of developer MRP Realty, has the 243-acre property under contract and hopes to break ground in 2015, said D. Reid Townsend, a principal with the company.

MRP, which is seeking county approval of the project, is marketing the proposed Eastgate at Perryman as a "build-to-suit" opportunity for tenants, likely retailers and consumer product companies looking for a distribution center with easy I-95 access, he said.

"At this point there's no intention of breaking ground on a speculative basis," Townsend added.

The long, narrow site, part of the extensive Mitchell family lands, is bounded by Aberdeen Proving Ground to the east and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor to the west. It runs from Route 715, or Maryland Boulevard — the main civilain access road into the Army post — about two miles south to East Michaelsville Road.

The site's access plan calls for trucks and employees to enter the property from the south through a small residential community along Michaelsville Road.

"When is it going to stop?" said Leslie Ruhno, who lives on East Michaelsville Road, of Perryman's ongoing industrial development at a community input meeting on the project last week.

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 hub.

The Eastgate property is zoned for light industrial use. Several large warehouses and industrial facilities stand across the railroad tracks from the Mitchell property, including The Clorox Company's consumer laundry bleach processing facility. A massive Rite Aid distribution center is off of Chelsea Road just south of the Michaelsville neighborhood. Baltimore Gas & Electric has a small generating station farther south on Chelsea Road where a major expansion is planned.

A site plan for the project drawn up by the Bel Air engineering firm Frederick Ward Associates depicts two long narrow buildings — one with 1.25 million square foot and the other with 1.03 million square foot — with the rest of the property used for parking, truck pads and some open space. The site plan appears to show room for a third building.

The project's interior road would be accessed by extending Woodley Road across Michaelsville Road. Truck and other traffic would get to the Eastgate buildings via Perryman Road to Chelsea Road to Woodley, passing several homes in the Michaelsville community.

Michaelsville residents said they're worried that the project will draw continuous truck traffic at all hours of the day and night by their homes. The community meeting grew heated at points as residents urged that the interior road be extended out to Route 715 as an alernative access.

"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," said Gerard Zulauf of the potential for accidents.

Years ago, county planners wanted whomever developed this Mitchell tract to construct a road from Route 715 south to Chelsea Road that could be used to relieve Perryman Road's truck traffic.

The developer is still reviewing designs and "everything is under consideration at this stage," including changes to the entry to the site, Townsend said.

"We appreciated the feedback from the community members who would be impacted," he said. "We're taking all of their comments into consideration as we evaluate our design options."

Preliminary plans still must be submitted to the county and are subject to a review by the county's Development Advisory Committee.

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.

Some residents also raised concerns about the project's proximity 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's still in use. The site plan shows both buildings would be constructed in wellhead protection areas.

"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."

While worried about the increasing development, Ruhno stressed that residents are willing to work with the developer as long as the project works 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."

Baltimore Sun staff writer Natalie Sherman contributed to this report.