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Harford council to consider amendments to Comprehensive Zoning legislation

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

Thirteen amendments have been offered to the 2017 Comprehensive Zoning legislation before the Harford County Council, amendments that counter recommended zoning changes for properties in Aberdeen, Abingdon, greater Bel Air, Fallston and Joppa.

The county’s Department of Planning and Zoning and the citizen Planning Advisory Board, made recommendations to either change or keep the zoning the same in response to 112 requests for rezoning submitted by owners of property countywide. Those recommendations are part of Bill 17-015-Adoption of 2017 Zoning Maps, which is before the council.

Harford County must conduct a Comprehensive Zoning Review update every eight years.

The 13 amendments were introduced during the Oct. 10 council meeting. They have not been acted upon, but could be during Tuesday night’s meeting. Other amendments could be introduced, but the meeting agenda only shows the 13 previously introduced as being up for introduction/consideration.

None of the amendments introduced last week are related to issues that have sparked significant public concern such as rezoning residential land for industrial use in Perryman, allowing greater commercial development in Forest Hill or intense residential development in Fallston.

The first six amendments cover zoning review issues E-001 through E-006 in Aberdeen — each issue is cataloged according to councilmanic district.

Councilman Patrick Vincenti introduced the District E amendments. All six apply to a cluster of properties on east side of Long Drive at the intersection with Route 22.

The properties are zoned agricultural and the owners are seeing B3 commercial zoning. The land is across Route 22 from University Center, formerly known as the HEAT Center, and Long Drive leads to Ripken Stadium, which city and county officials expect to drive commercial and residential development in the surrounding area.

The properties are also considered future annexation targets by Aberdeen city officials, as Mayor Patrick McGrady and others want to extend the city’s borders northwest to Aldino-Stepney Road.

Vincenti’s amendments call for changing the properties’ zoning to B1, which is less intense than the zoning sought by property owners. The amendments also run counter to Planning and Zoning’s recommendation of no change and the PAB’s recommendation of MO, or Mixed Office District, that promotes intense commercial development around the Route 22/I-95 interchange, with corporate offices, research and development and high-tech businesses, as well as retail growth.

Vincenti said he had spoken with Planning and Zoning officials, PAB members and Aberdeen’s mayor and planning director regarding zoning changes.

“We are all in agreement that granting the B1 zoning to E-1 through [E-]6 is consistent and compatible to the integrated business district that exists in the surrounding area,” Vincenti said.

Council President Richard Slutzky said he has lived “a couple miles” from the properties in question for decades, and he knows some of the property owners.

“There isn’t 10 acres of ag there that anybody’s going to farm in any particular way,” he said, referring to the properties’ current zoning.

He said commercial development is poised to start nearby on Long Drive.

“It doesn’t make any sense to have ag property in an area supported by Ripken Stadium, with business properties on the other side of the street and no possible way of using that land for agricultural purposes,” Slutzky said when the amendments were introduced Oct. 10.

Slutzky also introduced two amendments on behalf of Councilman Joe Woods. The Fallston-area representative has been deployed to Florida with FEMA, his employer, to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

The amendments are related to zoning issues B-001 and B-006.

Woods wants a 1.34-acre property at Route 1 and Reckord Road to be rezoned RO, or residential office, in accordance with the property owner’s request (Issue B-001). Planning and Zoning and the PAB recommend keeping the property zoned agricultural.

Woods’ amendment on issue B-006 sides with the request from the property owners to change a 5.49-acre section of their land from rural residential to B1 commercial. The land, which is occupied by the Thomas family’s sawmill, is at Pleasantville Road and Route 152, just north of Youth’s Benefit Elementary School.

Planning and Zoning and the PAB recommended keeping the property zoned RR.

Slutzky also introduced an amendment related to issue C-005, a request to up-zone two parcels — a combined 1.26 acres — from Ag to B1. The land is near the intersection of Route 543 and Prospect Mill Road east of Bel Air.

Slutzky’s amendment upholds the request, while the county and PAB recommend keeping the Ag zoning.

Slutzky deferred comment on the Woods amendments and his to a future council meeting.

Councilman Jim McMahan, the District C representative, introduced an amendment to uphold a request to up-zone 3.18 acres near the intersection of Ring Factory Road and Colonnade Lane from Ag to R2 residential, while Planning and Zoning and the PAB recommend keeping it agricultural.

Councilman Curtis Beulah introduced two amendments, one on issue F-002 allowing land at Route 924 and Box Hill Corporate Center Drive in Abingdon to go from R4 to commercial-industrial and one on issue F-004, allowing land along Route 7 in Abingdon to go from R2 to B2 commercial.

The owner requested B3 commercial on issue F-002, while Planning and Zoning and the PAB recommended keeping the land R4. The amendment on issue F-004 upholds the owner’s request, while the county and PAB recommended keeping part of the acreage residential.

Councilman Mike Perrone introduced one amendment allowing land near Route 40 and Joppa Road to go from R1 to B2 — the property owners had requested B3.

Beulah, McMahan and Perrone also deferred comment on their amendments.

Billy Boniface, director of administration for Harford County, said after the meeting that staff will review the council’s amendments. As of Monday, County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration had not yet taken a position on them.

The zoning changes become official once the council adopts the legislation, although the county executive has the power to veto it.

For more information on all 112 Harford Comprehensive Zoning Review requests, visit www.harfordcountymd.gov.

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