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NewsMarylandHarford CountyBel Air

More houses proposed for crowded greater Bel Air

ConservationHighway and Road TransportationJohn G. Roberts, Jr.Natural Resource IndustryEnergy Resources

Two new, relatively small residential subdivisions are planned in the greater Bel Air area and members of the Harford County Development Advisory Committee reviewed them Wednesday, not without controversy.

Both developments are in places already crowded with houses, and county planning and zoning officials required the developers of one project to change its name because another project of the same name is being built nearby, on land owned by the same couple.

Amy DiPietro, associate with Morris & Ritchie Associates Inc., of Abingdon, presented a preliminary plan for the O'Connell Property, a proposed 21-home subdivision on 7.38 acres west of Tollgate Road and north of West Ring Factory Road, an area that has seen four other housing developments of various sizes approved in the past four years.

The property is owned by Kathleen and Michael O'Connell, of Bel Air; TWS Tollgate LLC, of Belcamp, is listed as the developer and contract purchaser.

Jennifer Wilson, a planner representing the county's Department of Planning and Zoning on the committee, informed DiPietro that the name would have to be changed because of a conflict.

Moe Davenport, chairman of the committee, said later that a development in the area, also with the name O'Connell and on property also owned by the O'Connells, was recently approved by the county.

He said the developers would have to come up with a new name for the proposed project, to avoid confusion.

Wilson said during Wednesday's committee meeting that the developers must find a new name for the development "formerly known as the O'Connell Property."

The O'Connell project, if approved, would be built on land that is surrounded by property where the proposed Magness Overlook is slated to be built.

Davenport said construction has not started yet on Magness, a subdivision of several single family and town homes.

Bergerec Way would be built as an access road for the O'Connell subdivision through the Magness subdivision.

Rich Zeller, who represents the State Highway Administration on the committee, said agency officials had "no comment regarding proposed access to the development since it's going to be from county roads there's also no right of way impacts to SHA."

He said the developers would need to obtain a permit from the state, if proposed improvements to the nearby intersection of Ring Factory Road and Route 24 affect the state's right of way on the highway.

The developers have sought a waiver to build two panhandle lots, which are extended driveways that resemble panhandles and are often built to provide access to outlying parcels in a development, so the developer won't have to build additional interior roads.

The Harford County code allows for 10 percent of the lots in a proposed subdivision to have panhandle driveways, and waivers must be approved for additional panhandles.

"The department [of Planning and Zoning] will not consider the approval of the panhandle waiver without a significant reduction of the forest impacts or a revised forest," Wilson said.

Panhandle issues

Concerns over panhandle waivers also came up for the second proposed development, called Roberts Crossing.

The preliminary plan, presented by Mitch Ensor, a project manager with Bay State Land Services, of Forest Hill, calls for creating 16 residential lots on 13.57 acres off of Route 543 (Fountain Green Road) south of the Greenridge subdivision.

The Bob Ward Companies, of Edgewood, is listed as the developer and contract purchaser on the plan.

The land is owned by John and Patricia Roberts, who live on the property. Their existing home would be Lot 11 of the 16 proposed lots.

Lots 15 and 16 would be served by panhandle driveways connected to a cul-de-sac at the end of Shady Tree Court, which would be built to serve Roberts Crossing.

That is one more panhandle than the code allows, according to Eric Vacek, who represented planning and zoning for the Roberts property review.

About 32 percent of the acreage is in the county's Natural Resources District.

"The director of planning and zoning will not support the request of the additional panhandle, due to the proposed impact of the environmentally sensitive features on the site," Vacek said.

Davenport said developers must show that additional panhandle drives would not harm surrounding natural resources and that subsequent plans for the Roberts development should "either eliminate the panhandle altogether or reconfigure the lots."

A red barn on the property would be razed to make way for Shady Tree Court, John Roberts said from his home late Wednesday morning.

Roberts, who is 85, said he and his wife have maintained the property for about 30 years, but do not expect to be able to maintain it much longer and do not want to burden their children and grandchildren with the upkeep.

"When we came here, there was nothing over here," he said, pointing out homes across Route 543. Multiple homes have also been built along Flintlock Drive to the north. To the south of Roberts' property is Christopher's Camp, a 281-acre farm that is on the state's inventory of historic properties, according to the Maryland Historical Trust.

Residents of Flintlock Drive and connecting roads which end at the wooded buffer along the Roberts' land, such as Sako Court and Hickory Ridge Court, expressed concerns during the DAC meeting about traffic and environmental impacts, including losing the wooded areas they enjoy.

Zeller, of the State Highway Administration, noted the plans include improvements to Route 543 such as widening the highway for better access to the development.

Glenn Kraus, who resides on Sako Court, and Earnestine DuBois, who lives on Flintlock Drive, both expressed concerns about the area being able to handle additional development.

Kraus noted he has dealt with power outages, and worried about the existing BGE infrastructure's ability to handle increased usage.

"They are the people that need to be putting pressure on BGE," DuBois, speaking after the meeting, said of the review committee members.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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ConservationHighway and Road TransportationJohn G. Roberts, Jr.Natural Resource IndustryEnergy Resources
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