Bel Air development fight

Residents of the relatively new Richardson's Legacy development in Bel Air, shown in the background, are upset about a plan to build more than 300 homes on a property next to them. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing / January 16, 2013)

Some residents of the new Richardson's Legacy development off of Tollgate Road in Bel Air took issue Wednesday with plans for a new community of more than 300 homes – approved in 2011 – being built around them.

Besides adding hundreds of more cars to already overcrowded roads, especially Tollgate, several residents from Richardson's Legacy also told members of the Harford County Development Advisory Committee at their meeting Wednesday morning in Bel Air that they don't want their community of 42 homes connected to the much larger Magness Overlook, a development of 224 homes. Among the neighborhood's residents speaking at Wednesday's meeting was Nancy Giorno, a former deputy county attorney who is now legislative liaison for Harford County Executive David Craig.

The plans call for development of the property of Bob and Sondra "Sandy" Magness on the north and south sides of Ring Factory Road. The original plan was approved in 2011. It was before the Harford County Development Advisory Committee Wednesday with some revisions, which consultant Don Sample said are more environmentally friendly.

"Our goal is to preserve what's out there, to preserve as many trees as we possibly can," Sample said.

The north side, about 62 acres, will include 167 townhomes and 57 single-family homes, while the nearly 62-acre south side, Magness Farms, is exclusively single-family homes. Ryan Homes will be the builder in both communities.

The new plan calls for the same number of homes to be built – 302 - but reduces the number of townhomes from 175 to 167.

For a good portion of the meeting, comments were directed not to DAC committee members, but to Sample, who represents the developer, Somerville LLC, about the connection of the two neighborhoods at the end of Plowman Way, which will give all residents of Magness Overlook access to their neighborhood.

The townhomes, which will cost in the mid- to upper-$200,000 range, are what some of the residents of the adjacent Richardson's Legacy had issues with, saying the townhomes will decrease the value of their homes, which are selling for between $515,000 to $650,000.

"We moved in six months ago. We made a very calculated decision to move into a neighborhood with only 42 homes. The number of townhomes proposed is very, very, very disappointing," Tanya Svoboda said. "They're nowhere near the value of our homes and we hope to live here a long time."

Townhouse residents, she said, are more transient, and the value of the house drops each time ownership turns over.

"It's disappointing for us who have chosen where we want our families to grow," she said. "The likelihood is over time this is only going to hurt us."

Residents in 42-home communities look out for each other's children, she said.

"In a community of 300-plus homes, you don't have that," Svoboda said.

The Magnesses, who sold the Magness Overlook property to Somerville LLC and still own and live on the Magness Farms parcel, said they were doing the best they could with their development in the best way possible while complying with all the county and state rules and regulations.

They took offense at the townhouse comments, feeling like Richardson Legacy residents were implying it's a lower class neighborhood.

Sara Desai said she and her family also very carefully picked the neighborhood where they wanted to live.

"We bought into a 42-home community," Desai said replied. "We're not saying that it's low rent or low class."

"We just want information we wish he had previously," Scoslo Way resident Cleo Pappas said. "We want to know how our properties will be impacted."

Sample, working for the developer, said "we welcome your kids to come play on our fields."

"You are implying that we think we are so much better than them, that we would shun people living in the townhouses," which isn't true, Desai, a former townhouse resident, said.