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Harford Council hears from the public, for and against rezonings

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

Darlington business owner Andy Cary challenged the perspective of Harford County planning and zoning officials’ that his property should remain zoned for agricultural use.

He believes his property should be up-zoned as he requested to commercial-industrial use, stressing that the zoning change would allow him to expand his business and hire eight more employees.

“I was very disappointed to see the Harford County administration was not going to recommend my comprehensive rezoning request from AG to CI,” Cary, owner of C & E Development LLC, on Poole Road, said Monday evening at Aberdeen High School during the first of two public hearings on the county’s Comprehensive Zoning Review process.

The County Council, which has the final say on whether 112 requests for zoning changes will be honored, hosted the hearing. A second hearing will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Bel Air High School auditorium.

Cary and about 20 others signed up to speak Monday.

Applicants such as Cary, or their attorneys, asked council members to honor their requests, while other people who live near properties where rezoning is being sought asked council members to deny those requests.

The neighbors as well as advocates for responsible land use raised concerns about increased traffic, school overcrowding and potential harm to adjacent wetlands, waterways and wildlife.

“Let’s have Madonna remain attractive for the Harford 'next’ generation,” said Carol Knickman, a Jarrettsville resident and member of the group, Keep Madonna Rural.

Knickman, who was making a reference to the HarfordNEXT master land use plan approved in 2016, spoke against a request to rezone 7.8 acres near the intersection of Route 23 and Madonna Road from agricultural to B3 commercial.

Cary said he wants the up-zoning of 3 acres to commercial-industrial so he can erect a “pole building” that he would use for storage. The expansion would allow him to employ more people. His Poole Road operation is next door to his other business, PE Sales Inc., which is on property that fronts Arena Road and is zoned CI.

A number of properties nearby at the intersection of Poole Road and Route 1 are zoned for B3 commercial uses, according to the zoning tracker posted on the Harford County website.

Cary said he sells materials to the agricultural community, including to a number of local farms. He said he wants to give young people employment opportunities so they can avoid addiction, learn the value of hard work. He stressed that “ working-class jobs are still very important.”

“I have no intent to destroy, impact or hurt the agricultural community,” he said. “My Harford County business is my livelihood; it supports other local families.”

Dennis Leager, manager for PE Sales, and Bel Air attorney Robert Lynch, who is representing Cary, urged council members to support the request.

“Blue-collar businesses are important to Harford County,” Lynch said. “It’s the fabric of Harford County.”

Applicants Linda Baine and Jerry Esper are among the property owners seeking a rezoning, from agricultural to B3, for land at Route 22 and Long Drive in Aberdeen.

Esper said B3 is consistent with surrounding land use and it would help drive retail development near Ripken Stadium.

“The best recommendation is to change it to B3 to allow the retail that you want in that area,” Esper said.

Baine said she cannot sell her land, which includes the house where she raised her family, for residential use.

“The only way that I can sell my property is to sell it to a developer or for some kind of office space,” she said.

Applicant Jean Chenworth asked for support to rezone about seventh-tenths of an acre of 47 acres she and her brothers, Charles and William Thomas, own in Fallston.

The family wants the zoning changed from rural residential to B1-neighborhood business so all of the property her family’s sawmill sits on can be zoned B1.

Chenworth said her family has owned the land off Route 152 north of Youth’s Benefit Elementary School, since 1928 and has operated the sawmill since 1933.

“We do not have a problem with people expressing concerns, but it doesn’t seem fair or reasonable to us for people to move to Fallston, decades after our family has lived there, and then ask that our request be turned down because it is inappropriate,” she said.

Fallston resident Morita Bruce spoke against a request from Michael Euler Sr., managing member of Aumar Village LLC, to rezone agricultural land bordering the Aumar Village shopping center.

Euler seeks R2 residential zoning, although Bruce said he has announced in the past he wants the less-intense R1 zoning.

She said R1 has “much, much fewer impacts.” The lesser designation will allow homeowners along Route 152 and Harford Road to get the public water and sewer access they desire plus it will create less impact for the neighboring nearly 57-acre farm that has been preserved through a state agriculture preservation program, Bruce said.

Council members listened but withheld comments.

“Thank you for speaking to us this evening,” council President Richard Slutzky said at the close of the hearing.

Council members Joe Woods and Chad Shrodes did not attend the hearing. Shrodes is on vacation with his family and Woods has been deployed to northern Florida with FEMA to help manage Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

Woods said by phone Tuesday that he has been keeping up with the rezoning process, and he plans to view Thursday’s hearing online via Skype.

“It’s hard being away, but it’s worth it because so many people need our help right now,” he said.

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