Bel Air to hold hearing on Shamrock land swap Monday night

Bel Air's next town meeting Monday evening will feature a public hearing on the proposed land swap at the Shamrock Memorial Tree Grove. The hearing will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Also on the agenda for Monday's town meeting is the introduction of the town administrator's proposed operating and capital budgets for the 2013 fiscal year.

Town officials have negotiated the swap of 900 square feet in the southwest corner of the memorial grove, in the 300 block of Lee Way, for 4,200 square feet owned by Matthew Felton that is north of the memorial grove.

The swap would enable Felton to build a driveway from Lee Way to an undeveloped lot he owns, where a house would eventually be constructed, not far from the northwestern boundary of the grove.

The Board of Town Commissioners introduced Resolution 995-13 in February to declare the town's land surplus. An earlier hearing was postponed because some of the commissioners could not attend.

There has been some opposition to the proposed swap. One resident spoke against it at a previous town meeting, and a decade ago there was overwhelming public opposition to the town simply selling its 900 square feet to Felton for $10,000.

This time around, town officials are saying the town will come out ahead on the deal because it is getting almost five times as much land, much of it overrun with vegetation that will be cleaned up before the transaction is completed.

Planning Director Kevin Small went over the deal and its advantages to both the town and to Felton during a commissioners' work session late Tuesday afternoon. Small also said he planned to meet at the site with interested residents on Thursday afternoon to show them the location of the properties involved.

One of the advantages of the deal, according to Small, is the prospect of expanding the memorial grove, while exchanging land the town couldn't use for tree plantings, anyway. In addition, the swap would remove the possibility of Felton one day building a long driveway from Shamrock Road to his vacant lot, which would involve crossing the tributary of Bynum Run that comes out of a culvert on the southeast side of the grove. Small said the additional land the town is getting borders the stream and could result in some cleanup of litter in that area.

He also said the deal will provide for a vegetative buffer to the tree grove, while both parties will benefit from the cleanup of invasive vegetation on the town's new property to be done at Felton's expense. Felton is also paying for the title search, boundary survey and recording of plats.

Townhouse groups

The hearing on the land swap resolution is one of three that will be held Monday.

The public also will be able to comment on Ordinance 759-13, a proposed change in town development regulations that will restrict townhouse groups to six units, unless the planning commission approves up to eight in a group.

Small said there are no restrictions on how many units can be built in a single attached group. The planning commission recommended a standard of six units after viewing existing developments, he said, with the additional units to be considered depending on the layout of the development, topography, land use and parking configuration.

Small also said there are "more than people think" - properties around town that can be developed for townhouses, including two he mentioned during the work session: the former Aegis properties on Hays Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and the O'Neill/Julio property on Williams Street, behind The Aegis property.

The planning director said it remains to be seen if the change in the law will affect the plan by St. Matthew Lutheran Church to develop a portion of its property the town annexed off Moores Mill Road. The development plan calls for groupings of eight townhouses.

Small said the planning commission could give its final approval to the St. Matthew plan when it meets Thursday, April 4. Were the commissioners to enact the Ordinance 759-13 on Monday, he said, it would not take effect for 20 days, presumably after the St. Matthew plan has been approved.

A hearing will also be held Monday on Resolution 997-13 which imposes a $10 fee for collection of delinquent property taxes. The fee will coincide with one the county has adopted.

The commissioners also are expected to approve a $65,000 annual contract for trash pickup at condominium communities in town and will consider bids for the financing of the $270,000 the town will be borrowing to make major improvements to the parking garage.

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