He thought James Run makes sense for the county.

"It's certainly a large project. It's a large project that's going to be in a very good place," he said. "It's a perfect place for what they're talking about building."

Lisanti said the TIF arrangement would provide much-needed funding for roads, and the mixed-office designation of 16 years ago might not make sense today.

"You know what a 'planned employment center' is today? An iPad and an iPhone. And I carry them in my purse," she said. "The idea of a planned employment center may no longer be relevant."

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McMahan, meanwhile, said his constituents had a number of questions about the TIF and did not feel the project fit the original criteria as intended by the zoning.

"Why aren't we following the legislation that was passed for the mixed-office [zoning]? In 2008, this council and other interested parties, including the developer, all sat in this room and developed" an agreement on MO zoning, he said.

"The purpose was to build a well-defined and well-built employment center in Harford County for high-tech and highly enumerated jobs," he said. "Why are we allowing the MO to be prostituted?"

Calling the parcel "the most pristine piece of real estate" between here and Delaware, he said: "Lets do it right, let's do it to last. We only have one shot at this."

Woods, who owns a business on Main Street in Bel Air, said most of his Fallston constituents also disagree with this project, as it gives unfair advantages to certain business owners.

"I have a fundamental problem with government getting involved in basically picking winners and losers and possibly setting up unfair advantages," Woods said. "People in Fallston are job makers too, and they say, 'You're not bringing me jobs.'"

"An open piece of grass is not a rundown area. The Fallston Mall is a run-down area that a TIF would work for," he said.

Boniface said he wants to see this move forward as a lodging house as well.

"They don't need a TIF to move forward with what's been approved. It's an apartment complex," he said, but then voted in support of the project because the TIF is an "excellent" way to get things moving.

Boniface expanded his comments after the meeting.

"I want to see the project move forward as we [the council] have amended the TIF if the developer plans to use it," he explained. "They have approval to move forward from the County Executive's side of the street with only lodging houses, but the council has required the developer to resubmit a new site plan that includes the commercial piece also if they choose to use the TIF. We even amended to require that they come back before the council with the final plan to ensure that takes place."

Joseph Snee, a lawyer who represents the developers, said Monday that the change in the project's footprint was made in response to market demands for extended stay housing in Harford needed to house employees of defense contractors and the Army, people who stay locally for months at a time in connection with work at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"With this [lodging house development] an employer can say, 'I need for my people to come in and out and need 45 units," and they well get that," Snee explained. "This will be the envy of Harford County; it will be like nothing we have seen."

Aegis staff member Allan Vought contributed to this article.