The Harford County Council continued listening to testimony in a zoning case for a 197-unit development proposed south of Bel Air, without taking a vote.

Tuesday's council meeting included a technical discussion about the hearing examiner's determination that only a small sliver of land is zoned R3.

The hearing examiner issued his decision in April, calling the request by Evergreen Business Trust & Peak Management LLC "not a rezoning," but a re-interpretation of existing zoning boundaries, as the sliver should simply be moved into the R4 district line.

Brian Young, the Harford County Zoning People's Counsel, argued the company's request of re-interpreting the zoning was not relevant to what they were really requesting.


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"The people have acknowledged that there was a map error. The Department of Planning and Zoning said there was an error," Young said Tuesday, noting the intent was to follow the lot line for the property.

"This request is not to fix the map error but… the applicant believed at the time it would get them to their desired density," he said.

Evergreen's lawyer Robert Lynch asked the council to uphold the hearing examiner's ruling, saying the zoning map had been drawn when the lines had not been fixed.

"It's not an issue of was there an error or wasn't there an error. Everyone agrees there was an error. The question becomes how far do you extend the zoning line?" Lynch said.

Young disagreed, saying: "The question is not how far to extend the line but to determine what was the intent of the county in 1982 [when the zoning was originally done]."

The council expects to vote on the case in September, when it returns from summer recess.

Tuesday was the last council meeting before the summer.

Traffic task force, Comcast agreement

The council also got into discussion during Sheriff Jesse Bane's presentation on the Traffic Safety Task Force's plans to reduce accidents in the county and a proposal to grant a limited extension of five months, to Dec. 27, to Comcast on its franchise agreement with the county.

The Comcast agreement was approved unanimously, but Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti wondered what would happen if it was not granted.

"What if we don't do this agreement and it expires? Do they turn off the cable?" Lisanti asked, wondering what it would take for Comcast to become more responsive and saying maybe the council should just stop extending the contract.

"Sometimes when the water doesn't move, you've got to make a ripple in the water," she said.

Attorney Charles Kearney said he does not believe Comcast would simply stop service but acknowledged the council members' concerns.

Councilman Joe Woods said he constantly hears from people about service being unavailable and wanted to consider some kind of protection for the service alone.

He also said Comcast has refused to call him back and he has declined to participate in its Newsmakers program because of its poor response.

Councilman Jim McMahan asked if the council could put any pressure on Comcast in regard to its rate structure, while Councilman Dion Guthrie wanted Comcast employees to come before the council to answer some questions.

Kearney said he was unsure if holding negotiations in public was a good idea.

Woods noted Comcast should be held to the same standards as other licensees.

"If this was BGE, we'd hold them a lot more accountable, and we have," he said.

Bane's final report from the Traffic Task Force recommended partnering with the state project "Toward Zero Deaths" and established a goal to reduce Harford fatalities by 50 percent, as set in a benchmark by the state.

The county should seek to reduce traffic injuries from 1,976 in 2008 to fewer than 1,643 by Dec. 31, 2015, a 20.2 percent reduction.

The task force hopes to do that by reducing distracted driving, impaired driving and aggressive driving, as well as increasing occupant protection and pedestrian safety.

Other goals include reducing the annual number of injuries caused by those factors by percentages ranging from 16.8 to 19.8 percent by the end of 2015.

The task force recommends creating a traffic safety commission for the county, consider moving Medevac's Trooper 1 to a new site in Harford or Cecil County, fast-track the installation of traffic pre-emption devices at busy intersections, make additional fire/emergency medical services stations, enhance its 911 capabilities to locate 911 callers on cell phones, create a media campaign and expand training to public schools.