Issuing building permits and restarting stalled construction projects have been suspended in Bel Air until the town can find a solution to its drought issue.
Bel Air town commissioners voted at their meeting Monday to approve Resolution 1019-13, which pauses the approval time constraints for builders with construction projects in the works while the town works to resolve the issue, said Kevin L. Small, director of the Bel Air planning department.
"Construction projects have an approval period of two years and it can be extended one year," Small said. "We are pausing the time limit because we don't want to penalize builders while we search for a solution."
Construction projects affected are those that have been approved, but work has not begun. Multiple phase long-term projects, which have stalled for more than 12 months, will also be affected by the resolution.
The Harford County Health Department sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Environment in April calling for a halt to the construction projects, Small said.
The health department's decision comes on the heels of a Maryland water capacity study, which shows that projected growth in Bel Air and Harford County could impact water supply needs in drought situations.
According to Bill Walsh, of Maryland American Water, which supplies water to Bel Air, the town's main water supply Winter's Run has become less reliable in more recent years.
Walsh said many of the town's alternative water sources have decreased their capacity of the last few years, causing Bel Air to seek other options.
Approval for small scale projects and single family lots can still be sought during the inspection period, Small said during the town hall meeting.
Park Place stormwater pond
The commissioners also voted to approve a $66,355.40 contract with Angler Environmental to fix significant repairs to the stormwater management pond at Park Place.
Following an inspection in April 2012, the town discovered the low flow pipe in the pond was damaged and needed to be repaired.
"Under the agreement the homeowner's association is obligated to maintain and repair the pond as needed," Robertson said during the meeting. "The town inspects it regularly. The HOA is notified to make a repair and if they don't, it's the town's responsibility to make it."
Under the Park Place Declaration Covenant, once the town makes the necessary repairs, they can bill the residents within 30 days of giving them written notice.
In April, the town held an informational meeting with Park Place residents to explain construction needed to fix the stormwater management pond, Robertson said.
The 31 Park Place units surrounding the pond will be required to pay two yearly installments of $1,069.93 and a $30 administrative fee to the town. Residents who do not pay by March 1 of each billing cycle could have liens placed against their properties by the town.
Thomas Gray, 76, a 12-year resident of Park Place, said he is disappointed with the town's decision to move forward with the required repayment plan. Gray said the community does not have an official homeowner's association and he as well as most residents were unaware they were responsible for the pond.
"I never knew about the pond; I can't even see it from my house," Gray said. "I'm surprised the decision went so one-sided."
Gray, a retired worker with the Baltimore County department of public works, said he may consider moving to Atlanta with his sons following the town's decision.
Bike and pedestrian plan
The town also approved a new Bike and Pedestrian Plan aimed at promoting cycling, walking and healthy choices.
Small, of the planning department, said the town is working on a connection and safety plan for transportation in the town.
The new plan will include improvements for trails, sidewalks, traffic enforcement and awareness campaigns. Small said the plan will be a working document which plans for transportation for the next 10 years.
Student Achievement Award
Sierra Smith, a student a Bel Air Middle School, was awarded the Student Achievement Award for November by the commissioners. She was nominated by Principal Natalie N. Holloway.
Not only does Sierra volunteer her time to many philanthropic causes like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, she also is a peer tutor, a member of the Speech and Debate Club and the National Junior Honors Society and several sports clubs.
Town Commissioner Edward Hopkins joked that he does not know how Sierra finds time to do so many things in one day.
Police retirement and promotion
After spending 25 years and three months with the Bel Air Police Department, Cpl. William B. Lay is retiring. A graduate of Bel Air High School, Lay served in the Air Force and settled in Harford, where he joined the force in 1988.
Lay most recently served as an assistant shift supervisor on the midnight shift. He was a member of the department's honor guard, a police dog handler and an undercover detective on the Harford County Drug Task Force.
A retirement party is planned in January to honor Lay's service. He was presented with a 25-year service pin by Police Chief Leo Matrangola and gift card from the board of commissioners.
"It's been a long ride; it's been a good ride, but it is time to turn it over to the young bucks," Lay said during the town hall meeting. "I retired Tuesday and I'm still trying to figure out when I come back to work."
Lay will be replaced by Mathew Gullion, who is being promoted from first class to corporal.
"People are coming here and staying here," Hopkins said of Gullion's promotion. "Before people would use Bel Air as a steppingstone. It's good to see Mat moving forward in his career."
Planning commission appointment
The board voted to appointment Lois Kissinger Kelly to a five-year term on the town's planning commission.
New commissioner Patrick Richards said he previously worked with Kissinger Kelly and she is extremely capable.
Kissinger Kelly is a longtime Bel Air resident and graduated from Bel Air High School.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun