Review begins of 115 Harford properties in rezoning review

Proposed changes could have impact on surrounding areas

The owners of 115 Harford County properties are seeking zoning changes under the countywide comprehensive zoning process.

Friends of Harford, a local land use advocacy group, plans a public information session at the Abingdon Library Sunday afternoon to tell residents what to expect as the process enters its next phase of review and public comment.

"Although I'll be explaining how CZ [comprehensive zoning] and zoning work, and why they're important, this will also be a working meeting," Friends of Harford member Morita Bruce explained via email Thursday. "The give-and-take between FOH and the public should be interesting."

The group's informational session Sunday at the Abingdon Library, from 1 to 4 p.m., will include maps showing the properties involved and the relationship of each to its surrounding neighborhood, according to announcements for the session. For more information visit www.friendsofharford.com

"Join your neighbors in evaluating zoning changes that can impact you," Friends of Harford member Janet Hardy, of Abingdon, wrote in a letter to the editor published Wednesday. "The zoning code, plus the property's individual zoning dictates the future. Make your voice heard and make a difference."

The cutoff to submit individual rezoning requests was Feb. 10. Since then, county planners have been reviewing the requested changes and, along with the five-member Planning Advisory Board, will make recommendations whether to approve or deny each requested change.

Those recommendations will then go to the Harford County Council, which has the final say on each request, in early fall. The full process won't be completed until late this year or possibly early 2018, although a published timeline expects the council to hold hearings in October and take final action in November.

The comprehensive zoning process, which under county law must be conducted at least once every eight years, allows property owners to request zoning changes without going through a lengthy – and often costly – individual rezoning case.

Comprehensive requests are reviewed by the county administration and then by the County Council. The process began in December with the submission of applications.

In evaluating a rezoning request, county planning staff will look for its compatibility with the county's land use plan, which was most recently adopted in the HarfordNEXT master plan process last summer, according to the county administration.

Complete information on the comprehensive review is available on the county's website, where visitors will find property descriptions and have an opportunity to log comments and view other comments. The website has an app which gives the full log of requests and is updated as the review process moves through its various stages.

Many of the rezoning requests have been filed by lawyers representing the properties' owners or by corporate entities. Far fewer were filed directly by individuals.

The requested rezonings, which are cataloged by County Council district, include several parcels that are less than an acre and only one that exceeds 100 – a 115-acre tract in Abingdon where a change from R1 low density residential to R2 medium density residential is recommended.

Most of the requested changes involve residential to business and vice-versa, or agricultural to either residential or business.

The owner of one the other larger tracts in the process, 88 acres off Route 40 and Stepney Road south of Aberdeen, wants a change from R4 high density residential to GI general industrial.

Many requests, if approved, could affect neighborhoods, schools, the environment, traffic and other services, notes Friends of Harford.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's administration wants to keep the process as open and accessible as possible, Cindy Mumby, the administration's spokesperson said Thursday.

The Planning Advisory Board has scheduled two public input sessions to hear from residents, on Tuesday, April 11, at Edgewood High School and Tuesday, April 25, at Bel Air High School. Both sessions will run 7 to 9 p.m.

For those unable to attend, Mumby said they can email comments that will be considered as part of the review to comprehensivezoning@harfordcountymd.gov. There's an email portal on the county website.

"It's important to emphasize comments to planning and zoning and the PAB lead to recommendations to the County Council before they vote," Mumby said. "The county executive has worked to make the process as transparent and as easy as possible but, full disclosure, it's ultimately the County Council that decides."

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