Dental office to replace former Route 1 service station

Developers are seeking Harford County approval to turn a boarded-up former service station, a rare empty space in Bel Air's bustling Route 1 commercial corridor, into a dental office.

Lou Schaffer, project manager with Frederick Ward Associates, the Bel Air architectural, engineering, planning and surveying firm, presented plans to build the 3,584 square-foot office at the southwest corner of northbound Baltimore Pike and South Tollgate Road to the members of the Development Advisory Committee Wednesday morning.

The property, which comprises about half an acre and is zoned B3, general business district, is catty-corner to Harford Mall and north of the Silver Spring Mining Company restaurant.

The windows and doors to the vehicle bays are boarded up, and concrete barriers block the entrances to the parking lot. Schaffer said the developers plan to tear down the existing building, which takes up 2,117 square feet.

Schaffer said developers also plan to close the entrances to the site that are closest to the intersection of Tollgate and Baltimore Pike, leaving one entrance from each road.

"That will provide for better stacking in those areas for traffic, as well as better traffic flow," he told committee members.

Plans call for the building to be served by the Maryland American Water Company, which supplies water to the Bel Air area. Schaffer also explained that developers propose construction of a "force main" sewer connection, which uses pressure instead of gravity to move wastewater and sewage, to tie into the county sewer system to the east through a new manhole under Azalea Drive.

John Resline, of the Harford County Health Department, presented comments from Leonard Walinski, program supervisor with the department's Bureau of Environmental Health, regarding the state of the soil under the former gas station.

Walinski noted in his comments that the site had, in past years, been "impacted by petroleum products that were released into the environment."

The Maryland Department of the Environment required the previous owner and operator to put in "groundwater monitoring wells," and representatives of the MDE's Oil Control Program determined on July 8, 2012, the property was "in compliance."

"The residual petroleum contamination present on-site in the soil and groundwater does not present a risk for the current exposure pathways," Walinski wrote in his comments. "Please note that excavation in the area of the investigation may create exposure pathways if impacted soil is encountered and must be handled in a manner that complies with State and local regulatory programs."

One public comment came from Morita Bruce, a Fallston Community Council member and president of Friends of Harford, which advocates for "responsible land use" in Harford County.

Bruce thanked Schaffer for the redevelopment of the gas station site, and replacing an "ugly" building.

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